self-expression for the self-strong

Seeking Zen

at long last, a word on the wind

My love and I moved from Nevada to Texas. I’ve moved cross-state before, but this was by far the worst. We had car trouble, critter trouble (rescued two stray dogs from the highway), and body trouble (oh, my teeth). It took us two days longer than expected. I had to work from the road, praying our motels had sufficient internet connection.

I learned a lot. I stretched my limits. It’s a new adventure under my belt, and it led to this adventure, which is rebuilding our home in a wonderful house and getting used to a new climate and a new city. Texas, you are not nearly so uncomfortable as I expected, and I’m grateful for it.

Most importantly, though, I got in touch with Change again. With the move, the adventure, and other things I’ve been experiencing, I had the urge to shed a skin and begin anew.

I thought to myself, Should I wait? Should I make sure I’m ready to commit to this change and leave the old skin behind? What if I want to take it back?

And that’s when I knew it was time to get going. Change is eternal, relentless, constant, even if its size and intensity varies. The instant I wonder if I’m ready to change is the instant I need change the most. And if I change my mind later, that’s just another step on Change’s path, and I can and will adjust my course to fit.

So I closed my creativity blog; its occasional photo-post and well-received link round-ups will be moved here, expanding this blog a little more in scope, but still holding true to the vibe of the place.

I will resume writing here very soon, once I stop staying up until 4 and 5 in the morning and restore a little equilibrium to my daily life. We’re still rebuilding our home, unloading and unpacking, and I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time sitting down to write when I could be filling bookshelves from boxes instead.

In the meantime, what have you been up to these last few weeks? Tell me some stories.

A Quasi-Hiatus

My friends, I am very busy. I’m doing two people’s jobs during the busiest time of the month, preparing to house-hunt and then move across several states, and keeping myself un-miserable throughout it all.

I love this blog, but I love my sanity more, so posting will be erratic or non-existent until about mid-July, which is when I should be settled in my new home and the new office.

Best of all things to you, and I look forward to being a more consistent presence soon. ♥

“Is it real?” vs. “Is it useful?”

I talk to Meamare, my car. I tell her good morning each time I start her up to go to work, and I thank her each time I park. When the weather is bad, I encourage her to stay steady and sure, and I lavish praise on her when she, inevitably, gets me home safely. Together, she and I make driving safe and efficient and enjoyable.

Does this mean I believe my car is a person, deserving of the same courtesies and emotional support I would give a friend?

Or does this mean I am playing into my psychology in order to cultivate a sense of gratitude for my primary means of transportation and a sense of calmness in times of dangerous road conditions?

Here’s a better question: does it matter?

What matters is whether or not a particular belief is useful. A belief’s objective reality can be difficult or outright impossible to prove – if you can prove that my car does or does not have a spirit, go right ahead! – and so its reality ceases to be important. What remains is usefulness.

Does this belief enhance or enrich my life? Does it aid my functionality and my happiness? Does it avoid any negative impact on my mind and body?

If it is both helpful and harmless, then it is useful, and it may stay.

Is my car a person, or does acting as though she is simply serve my psyche?

It doesn’t matter. What’s important is that I am a happier, more mindful driver because I talk to her. And that’s best for everyone.

Gentleness In Fear

Please note: This post is talking about illusory fear, where you are afraid of things that do not exist or cannot hurt you where you are. If, however, you are afraid of a real threat, get the hell out of Dodge immediately.

We learn fear from experience, and some of these experiences are traumatizing. Sometimes, we hold over that echo of fear long past its usefulness, long past its validity.

Fear is useful when it protects us, warns us of danger, makes us cautious and wary so that we do not go blind and get hurt. Fear is valid when there is something present, both in your surroundings and in the current moment, to be afraid of.

Fear can be crippling when it outlives its causes. The same tactics that once ensured our survival can paralyze us or send us spiraling into paranoia. We may feel terror when we are in the safest place, with our most trusted people, simply because, once upon a time, some aspect of this situation may have signaled danger – such as hearing loud sounds outside your home.

Being accusatory and angry towards yourself only heightens your fear. Shouting “why am I afraid of this?! this is stupid!” in your own head solves nothing and only increases the tension in your body. Attacking yourself when you’re afraid only verifies the sense that there is something to fear.

Gentleness, then, is the best approach to fearfulness. Just as you would approach a panicked animal: move slowly and never suddenly, keep yourself non-threatening and low, and stop if the fear spikes. Use a soft voice; do not brandish weapons or fists or your frustration with yourself. Be as patient and compassionate as you can, and forgive yourself if you cannot.

Remember that hostility to your fear only worsens it, but staying calm in response to sudden fear will often drain it of its power and allow you to coax it away.

We Can Have Wings

Have you ever felt wings on you?

Have you ever felt like you could ride the wind if you but opened yourself to it?

Have you ever felt like your heartfelt ability to fly was a barometer and an insight into your headspace?

When we are aware of ourselves – our psyches, emotions, and physical bodies – we know not only how we feel right now, but how we’d like to feel, as well. We know what hurts and what rejoices. We know what needs healing and rest and strengthening at its deepest levels.

When we are energized, we have the power to act and change our state of being. We can move forward and make progress. We can change. We can grow.

When we are both mindful and powerful, we can direct ourselves down a path of our own choosing. We can sculpt our very paradigms and selves. We evolve.

Is that direction and momentum not the same as flying high with your own power?

So, tell me – have you ever felt wings on you?

Blue-Collar Zen

I grew up dancing on the poverty line. Both of my parents were hard workers in their own ways, and both of them taught me the value of a dollar – and the value of earning that dollar.

The three of us – my mom, my dad, and eleven-year-old me – built a two-story house on an acre of land. Just us. My dad designed the blueprints, and we raised up a house on a windy hill outside of town. I wired outlets, installed insulation (so itchy), painted walls, and nailed whatever needed nailing, plus helped clear the yard of broken branches, plant grass, and spread gravel for the driveway.

I know what work feels like. It’s not the capital-w-Work that people exult about like a vocation or the heart’s ultimate passion – it’s just work. It’s a series of things you do to get shit done.

And to me, work feels good.

It can be tedious, boring, exhausting, and unpleasant, but there’s still a zone I can find where it feels good. Sweating in the sun or freezing in the snow, struggling with fiddly details or hauling as much weight as my body can move, work feels good.

There’s a zen to that zone, you see. Where the discomfort is less important than the movement, the progress. Where one thing gets done at a time, smoothly, steadily, and it’s just like walking – one foot in front of the other, simple as that.

Mistakes can be made. Breaks can be taken. Distractions can turn the head. But in the end, there is a sturdy heartbeat in doing work, doing it at a sustainable pace, and doing it right and well. It’s a forward momentum that’s as good for the worker as it is for the work being done.

Even in the digital age, working with websites and emails and entirely virtual things, I can fall into the stride of work and make it feel good, feel right, feel hard-but-not-painful. Being in the zone keeps “busy” from being “stressful” and “productive” from being “burnt out.”

How do you feel about work? What do you do to keep yourself from getting overwhelmed when your plate’s overflowing?

The Zen of Clean Spaces

(A thousand thanks to Cazzy for suggesting this topic.)

Have you heard about the relationship between the macrocosm and the microcosm? “As above, so below” – or “as within, so without”?

Not only is it true, it can apply to the state of your surroundings and how they relate to the state of your head. While some people are very comfortable in a cozy clutter, others need spaciousness and cleared surfaces before their minds can tackle new ideas or large projects; some people prefer low, intimate lighting, while others function best in streaming sunlight that floods the room.

However you prefer your living or working space to be – and for the sake of this post, we’re talking about spaces over which you have some control, rather than a sterilized cubicle that you can’t personalize – you can change your space to suit you. And changing your outside space helps change your inside space, as well, making room for the flow of your work and play.

Personally, I like an individualized, clean place to live. I like having pictures and books and furniture that is distinctly Mine and Me, in colors that appeal to me, arranged in ways that usually cover the walls but leave the rooms themselves quite open. Having a bunch of clutter or mess distresses and distracts me.

Turns out, I am not a very good writer when I am distressed and distracted. I’m not very happy when I’m distressed or distracted. So, the first step to clearing my head is to clear the table.

I tidy up – I don’t care for the sound of the phrase, but it’s apt – by putting things where they belong. Even if that means piling the laundry in the corner, at least it’s not strewn across the floor; likewise, the dishes get stacked in the sink, even if they don’t get washed right then and there. I clean the litter boxes, take out the trash, light some delicious incense, and may even vacuum – having the air smell good and the floor feel clean beneath my bare feet are Very Important to my sense of space.

The state of my surroundings can have an almost palpable atmosphere to me. If my home (or wherever I am – a restaurant, my workplace) feels bright, open, spacious, and clear, I feel expansive and happy and competent. If the space around me feels crowded, dim, unclean, or “foggy,” I feel uncomfortable and small and inclined to hide in a corner.

What about you? How do your like your space to feel – and what do you do to make it happen?

My Daily Focus

Because of a move across the states coming up in early July, my life is suddenly far busier than normal. Every weekend is filled with a major event or activity, and I’ll be slowly decluttering my home and packing during my weeknights.

In order to avoid burn-out, I compiled a list of Daily Things That Matter. I’m sharing it here, in hopes it may help those of you in similarly chaotic situations – or perhaps those who just need to refocus on what matters.

  • Sleep a lot.
  • Eat well. Listen to your body.
  • Tea is soul-medicine.
  • This is not the time to tough it out and suffer needlessly. Take migraine medicine when you need it.
  • Pick a few tasks to accomplish each day and focus only on them. Don’t worry about the rest. One day at a time.
  • Do well at work. Use your time productively.
  • Exercise. At least fifteen minutes. Period.
  • Journal daily. It is happy-making and grounding.
  • When you need a break, take it. Express yourself, rest yourself, pamper yourself, push yourself, all when you need it.

When you find yourself overwhelmed, what things go on your This Matters list?

Learning From Mirrors

One of the benefits of all things being connected – you to me, humanity to the earth – is that we have mirrors set up all around us. These mirrors help us see ourselves more clearly, and in studying what we see in the mirror, we discover new facets of our own selves.

Take an animal as your mirror – a pet, a farm animal, or a wild animal. Notice how your instincts and reactions are similar. Do you greet your friends with a dog’s exuberance? Do you have the same skittishness around large, noisy crowds as a leopard would around a milling herd of wildebeest? Do you dive into new situations with the relentless adaptability of a coyote?

Or take an element of nature – fire, water, wood, shadow. Are you a firecracker that spends all your energy in one dazzling burst, then fizzles away? Do you flow like water, absorbing events like ink in a clear bowl, or do you wash the sediment out of your body and onto the banks? Are you a tree, steady and slow, digging towards richness and stretching towards sunlight?

How about a mythical archetype – Hero, Weaver, Magician? Do you strive to sweep in and save the day for those around you, whether or not they want or need the interference? Do you walk the web of possible realities and choose your path with the same care that you would choose the colors of a tapestry? Do you perform alchemy with your life and yourself, purifying gold from the dross?

You can even consider the weather as a mirror. Does the wind lash the trees like the force of your will whips against the circumstances of your life? Does the roiling storm overhead reflect your ire – or soothe it? Can you rest when the snow is falling in near-silence?

Find your mirrors; study them. Some of them will be parallels, reflecting your face back to you at a new angle, but others may be opposites, revealing truths about you via contrasts. Some of what you discover will be positive; some may not be, and that will help you see what you don’t want to embody.

Pay attention and learn. There is wisdom everywhere.

Wisdom

I am young, and I am wise.

I am imperfect, and I am wise.

I have made mistakes, and I am wise.

I am sometimes wrong, and I am wise.

Wisdom is not reserved for the ancient, the perfect, or the great sages. Wisdom comes from living – from trying, from failing, from succeeding. We gain wisdom as we go through life.

Any living thing can be wise. People of all ages have their own wisdoms; animals, trees, and the natural world all have their own wisdoms. We can learn from them, if we observe closely, and we can learn from each other.

Remember that you may be very wise, but you are not always right. Be humble. Be willing to revise what you consider true. Be willing to adapt as new knowledge comes to light. And compile all your many changes of this into wisdom.

Honor your wisdom, and never stop adding to it. Never stop growing.