It’s Brave to Be Seen

It is nothing short of an act of bravery to allow yourself to be seen by another.  Whether it is a friendly-confidant, a significant other, or a professional counselor.  Allowing yourself to be at that place where you admit to another human being that “things could be going better”.

We don’t get to that place overnight.  It’s not an Amazon-style, two day jaunt into the clutches of psychological disaster. No, these things take time to develop.  These things take layers of stress, internalization, and pinpricks to our sense of self to get to the point where they emerge into conscious awareness.  Often we won’t be the first to notice how dramatically our life is being affected.  Sometimes it takes that other to give us a nudge toward seeking to be seen, or heard.

Sometimes, all it takes is that unexpected phone call, or that random insensitive text to push our brains past the point of coping, and into the state of self-protection.  Unfortunately, self-protection is often demeaning and unsightly.  It is at this point of self-protective, and often self-destructive behavior and thought patterns that people seek some kind of help.  Help is good.  Help is important.

Seeking help is nothing short of an act of bravery and psychological fortitude.  Need help?  Get help.  It’s not weak.

Words

Words mean so much.

I’m in a graduate counseling class in which we are learning to lead different types of groups.  The experiential component of this course involves us both leading and being a member of a group throughout the term.  It has been a wonderful and eye-opening experience.  I have learned about myself and about how others approach the world and themselves.  The sense of safety and belonging of a trusting group of peers is hard to match.

At the end of class each week, the classmates that were observing the group chime in on what they observed and give feedback.  Tonight, and on other occasions, the sweet souls in my class have said such meaningful and kind things about what they observe me doing and saying as a group member and leader.

It has taken over three decades, but I am now able to take a compliment…and actually believe it.  I’m also more accepting of constructive criticism.  Perhaps it comes from years of tempering my perfectionist tendencies, or from arduous self-work and diligent mindfulness exercises.  Whatever the impetus, goodness it feels good to hear the sweet words of another human and accept them–without reservation, without judgement, just acceptance.

I will eternally be indebted to this group of classmates for their kind words, generous disclosure of their feelings, and their shared participation in this journey towards something greater.  We are expanding as professionals and individuals, but none of it is done in isolation.

And that my friends is the lesson I have learned.  True self-work, for me, cannot be accomplished in isolation.  My soul yearns for connection–to be seen, to be heard.  Anxiety and self-doubt cannot win.

In my life, I have stumbled upon the inner beast of self-doubt, calling it out of the shadows and exposing it to the examining light of non-judgemental inquiry–and what have I found?  That beast I have been careful to avoid is no beast at all, he is a child, he is Me, and he only wants to be seen. Heard. Known.  Fear is an illusion, it is only the lack of awareness of the ever-present Love that is available inside, often pushed into the shadows of our subconscious and neglected.  Love is a child, and this child is waiting to play.

 

Why I Need Buddhism

Buddhism is religion based in action rather than belief. It is practical rather than intellectual, as is reflected in the metaphor the Buddha used of the man shot by an arrow. Humanity is like the man, wounded by an arrow, and the arrow is dukkha. Intellectual pursuits over practical application would be akin to hesitating to withdraw the arrow before you find out what kind of wood it was made out of, who shot the arrow, and at what angle the arrow entered your body. What matters most in that moment is getting medical help—the healing dharma found through meditation, not philosophical speculation.

-Arnie Kozak

 

I Feel Married to the Keyboard

These past few weeks have seen many long nights. My sleep schedule is…well, isn’t. It’s quite sporadic. And while I know that this has potentially poor outcomes for my health, I keep pressing on. Why? Because it is only for a season. Mrs. Meander and I throw this phrase around a lot in our home. “It’s only for a season.”

It’s worth it. It’s valuable. It’s an experience.

And…it’s exhausting.

But my saving grace amidst all these changes has been my inner sanctuary. That place I can go to in spite of demands, noise, disturbances. It’s my home. It’s the reason people practice mindfulness. It’s my inner Buddha.

Speaking of Buddha, that was one smart fellow.

Stop chasing things, quit obsessing about outcomes, pay attention.

This world has a bountiful wealth of experiences to be had, but we can prevent ourselves form truly enjoying it all if we allow our run-away minds to taint the simple experience of being.

Just be with the experiences.
Painful
Joyous
Fresh
Stale
Unique
Routine…

To fully experience each moment as it is, withholding (or at least recognizing) the inner critic that wants to make assessments of everything. Observe the voice. It’s just a voice. It’s not really even your true voice. It’s the mind processing, remembering, trying to make meaning. Take control.

It’s worth it, I think.

photo credit: Typewriter Keys (say Qwerty). via photopin (license)

The Illusion of Separateness & Ethical Responsibility

In the wake of WWII, a German pastor, Martin Niemoller (1892-1984), penned this poem:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out–because I was not a Socialist;

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out–because I was not a trade unionist;

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–because I was not a Jew;

Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak out for me.

This wonderfully articulate quote speaks volumes concerning the paramount ethical importance of speaking out for minority views.

We may not directly see the immediate ramifications of minority views being suppressed, but from a globalized and society viewpoint, we will all experience those effects.

We may not fully understand how our current selfishness affects the coming generations, but without question, it will affect them. That responsibility is placed upon our shoulders to create a world in which our children and grandchildren can freely express themselves and lead meaningful lives, without the fear of subjugation based on personal preferences.

The spirit behind this quote is my reason for being an Ally for the LGBTQ community. It is the reason why I believe in providing a living wage for those who work hourly-wage jobs.  It is the reason I believe in conservation, and reducing manufacturing processes that are crippling the sensitive ecosystem of the earth, which we are leaving to future generations.

Regardless of philosophy or theology, it is inarguable that we share our very molecular make up with everything else in the Universe (even in the same proportions). In a very real and non-metaphysical sense, “We are the Universe aware of itself.”  There is responsibility in that truth. Responsibility to others, to ourselves, and to the Earth that bore us.

Watch at least the first minute of this video, and stand in awe with me, of our fascinating origins.

Day #31

Tonight, as I walked in place of Mrs. Meander I decided to try to walk without instigating any thoughts, but merely observe the thoughts that my brain produced and let seep into conscious awareness.

I was astounded at the sheer bulk of random thought processes that continually stream forth from the recesses of the sub-conscious. On a dark and relatively stimuli-free walk, my brain produced thought processes including, but not limited to: relationships, travel, marriage, pain, loss, camping, building, racism, Michael Brown, excess, lack, childhood memories, decisions, money, exercise, and politics. And so it went, and so it goes.

As soon as I became aware of a thought process and dismissed it, resolving to walk with nothing but my sensory experience… well, the next thing I knew I had just spent several moments “thinking” about something else completely irrelevant to this present moment.

It caused me to pause and ponder, “How much of what we react to, what we think we really “think” about is actually just us noticing our subconscious processing a mire of previous thoughts and inputs? Are we really thinking original thoughts when we say things like, “Well I think…”? OR are we simply allowing our brains to regurgitate a conglomeration of past outside voices that we mistake for our own?

I have a challenge for myself and for you, wonderful reader: As you go about your day, notice yourself “thinking,” and perhaps ponder the content of those thoughts. Were they relevant to your immediate situation? Did they bring happiness? Did the instigate anxiety?

Could it be that the journey to mindful living is paved with an awareness that our passing “thoughts” are actually making us, and not the other way around? Perhaps catching brains in the act of thinking could be the ticket to a more peaceful existence.

Happy thinking, my fellow travelers…