“Man suffers most through his fears of suffering”. —Etty Hillesum
I am beginning to understand how important it is to accept fear, suffering, and the unknown as a part of life. I’m not saying it’s easy, but it really is part of being human and our existence. Once we begin accept fear, suffering, and the unknown as natural and ordinary; we can experience a more balanced outlook on the way things are. Once that balanced outlook is realized; we still have fears, bad days and down days – they just seem to have less power and debilitating effects on us.
In a blog I wrote a few weeks ago “On the Fluctuating Gunas ”, bad things happening to our around us, doesn’t mean something is wrong with us. It’s just part of the flow of life.
What is even more astounding is that as humans we have the capability to truly accept the entire flow of what life is. In our most enlightened form it’s possible to not be affected at all. From a Christian biblical perspective – symbolically, the lesson of Jesus on the cross is to help free us from suffering through demonstrating that at even the WORST, we have nothing to be afraid of if we chose to embrace what is.
Acceptance = Non-Suffering
We can’t fight what life throws at us. It’s fruitless. We will lose by fighting and trying to avoid it every time. It’s a law of nature, but it doesn’t mean that we should lie back and be pushed around by life. In the same way we cannot win by swimming against the tide or sailing against the wind. We have to use nature’s forces intelligently to still navigate where we would like to go using what is there at the time and not just wishing the tide away.
What’s worse is that wishing the tide away means not enjoying life as it is happening. We waste time that would otherwise be enjoyable by being scared of the unknown, thinking things are supposed flow easily – then being miserable when they don’t.
Will Smith even quoted the version of the below phrase in a great YouTube video I watched not too long ago. This is the abridged >2 min version, but the point is well taken. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eSIo4JMzcbM
FDR said it best years ago. “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”.
Always do your best. What you plant now you will harvest later.
In the yoga classes I’ve taught this past week, the theme I have been focusing on is “The Harvest”. The chosen reason is the time of the year here in the Northern Hemisphere, especially where we live in New England. The purpose of this theme however is not about the crops we need to harvest before the first frost (which was last night), but all ‘seeds’ and ‘harvests’ for the future.
Not sure what it has to do with yoga? If you are still with me, please allow me to explain.
A seed is just a seed all by itself. A lettuce seed alone has nothing but the potential to become lettuce. If I plant lettuce seeds in the ground in the month of April (appropriate for our Connecticut hardiness zone), there is a decent chance it will grow lettuce. But if I plant a cucumber seed in April, it will absolutely not grow into lettuce, and there is a slim chance will grow at all. Cucumber seeds can only thrive after the last frost. Hence, it would be best to plant them in mid-May for any hope of having a cucumber in August.
So far I have a seed, dirt, and weather that will hypothetically allow me to harvest cucumbers. Seeds, dirt and weather are not that insanely different from the potential we have as humans to manifest goals or create the type of life we desire. In churches and other spiritual communities and texts we will often hear the phrase “As above, so below”.
What does that mean? It means the physical world is not all that different from the mental and spiritual worlds. Even though we can’t see those other worlds, the laws of nature are consistent.
Like seeds, our thoughts are just thoughts alone. The properties of a thought will only bring forth that thought. If I’d like to lose 10 pounds, it’s only a thought or wish until I do something with it. Additionally, wishing it will not yield me a promotion or the improvement of a relationship that I’d like to enhance… obviously. With me so far?
Next that thought is planted or ‘sown’ in my mind. The mind is not so dissimilar to the soil that we plant our seeds in. The thought that I would like to lose 10 lbs in a mind racing with anxiety, wrought with depression, or full with a stressed out ‘To Do’ list will only go into a abyss of other competing and negative thoughts. Similar to how planting a cucumber seed in sand, in the snow, or even in April; the mind’s condition would not be right to help a positive thought manifest into the raw potential it has.
This is where yoga comes in.
Yoga is not soley about moving around in different poses (or asanas). Yoga means to ‘yoke’. This sacred Sanskrit term is used to signify the connections between spirit, mind and body. Whether we are moving through poses, meditating, chanting, doing breath work, etc; what we are really doing is creating a connection of our physical body to our mind and spirit; creating a sense of equilibrium between all three – which are really one beautifully operating unit. It’s difficult to have anxiety when the mind, body and spirit are yoked in meditation or savasana (that last pose in most yoga classes where you actually enjoy laying around doing nothing for a few minutes).
When we are in balance, the mind is clear. When we sow thoughts in a clear mind, it is akin to planting seeds in proper conditions. When the mind is not clear, thoughts will still grow in murky conditions. These conditions often generate unwanted outcomes. For example anxious thoughts will thrive and create even more anxiety in a busy mind. The mind is constantly creating whether we get involved with what is put in or not. Analogous to how weeds will grow without involvement.
Yoga helps clear the mind through pointed focus and awareness. Focusing on breathing while mindfully moving from posture to posture in an average American yoga class (which is what comes to the minds of most when they picture yoga) helps us to stay in the present moment and pay less attention the wandering mind. When we are on the mat and feeling the slight shifts and sensations of our bodies, we are connecting our physical body with our inner selves. While sitting in a posture for a short while, if the body is relaxed and the mind wanders; it becomes very clear what is in there as thoughts arise.
A beautiful characteristic of yoga is that the habits we build on the mat will begin to stay with us off the mat.
A remarkable trait about thoughts is that you can change them.
If we don’t like what is coming up, we don’t have to actually keep thinking them. With a little practice of strengthening the mind, we are able to notice thoughts that aren’t aligned with the life we want and modify them.
Ignoring or changing unwanted thoughts and clearing our minds creates the proper soil and weather conditions to grow an aspired thought into reality. This will give us the boost to perform the last and third step of harvesting what we would like. That last step is the physical work.
If we plant cucumber seeds in mid-May and walked away… maybe we will have some cucumbers, but not likely. Chances increase if we ensure the seeds are properly watered, have the right amount of sun, and weeds are kept at bay – at least initially. As the season progresses and cucumber buddings begin to grow and get stronger, we still need to keep an eye on them; but weeds and unexacting sun and water levels are less likely to halt the progression of physical cucumbers.
We have to do the work. Once new habits are built and ingrained into our neuropath ways and routines, less focus needs to be put on sustaining the desired result. Keeping 10lbs off is easy with good habits because we essentially reap what we sow. Physically and mentally. If you don’t have a crop harvest right now, it only because you didn’t plant seeds and nurture them in the spring.
The laws of nature as we know it work the same in the mind/spirit world.
Yoga helps us to create the harvest (albeit “life”) we want by cultivating a healthy mind-body-spirit connection. The take home – mind your thoughts, as they can and will create the life and harvest you have.
Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds that you plant
Robert Louis Stevenson
Today I woke up anxious. Physically I had a slight tightness in my chest. My heart felt like it was a little heavy, but the worst was my breath. I couldn’t help but sigh every few moments. Obviously releasing some kind of tension. I felt slightly lost. Not sure where my life is going. Not but an hour later I was laughing and feeling like wherever my life is going it doesn’t matter and I’ll get there as I need to.
These are the “Gunas”. Fluctuations that are normal in the universe. They are everywhere. In the weather, in our moods. It’s a universal law. What goes up must come down. What swings one way will swing the other.
The Gunas are a term I learned in yoga teacher training and were often discussed. It’s now a part of my regular vocabulary and thought process. We don’t stay in one mood forever. Nothing stays in its state forever. We are supposed to feel good and bad. It should be expected that good things as well as bad things will happen. Fighting it is what leads to suffering. In Buddhism a key tenant is that any attachment causes suffering. Even attachment to feeling one way (like happy), being attached to an outcome you want, or any objects/feelings/desires/etc. The Hindu tradition (yoga’s roots) describes the same concept but in a different way.
From Yogapedia: https://www.yogapedia.com
A guna is an attribute of nature, according to Hindu philosophy. In Hinduism, there are three gunas that have always existed in the world in both all living and non-living things:
• Tamas (darkness, destructive, death)
• Rajas (energy, passion, birth)
• Sattva (goodness, purity, light)
Here in our Western world we are not taught to think in this way. We seem to feel that if something goes wrong or we don’t feel well (mentally, physically or spiritually), that something is wrong with us. Imagine we were taught that both elation and depression are normal and to be expected? Neither will stay. Both are an experience of being alive. The more we attach to any experience (the good or the bad ones), the more we will ‘suffer’. Suffering really meaning anything from disappointment to despair.
I’m signed up for daily emails from Richard Rohr. He is a Franciscan priest that wrote many books on spirituality. I recently finished “Falling Upward” which was amazing! Much of it was about how we need to fall in order to learn and grow. How opposite things are complementary and part of life. I will paste a quote from the Tuesday mediation.
“If we are going to talk about light, then we must also talk about darkness, because they only have meaning in relation to one another. All things on earth are a mixture of darkness and light, and it is not good to pretend that they are totally separate!”
Understanding the Gunas is one of the many ways I am learning to accept life as it is. When I remember them when I’m feeling down I almost embrace it as the full experience of life. Not always, but more & more often.
They have helped me- and if you have read this and are willing to try, perhaps that can help you or a loved one too!
Peace & Namste
Today I woke up feeling good. On 7/11/18, 2 months and 2 days ago, I had just one of the worst evenings of my life. The following few days were even more difficult. These last 2 months have been a journey that I realize is life-long and I’m in no rush to finish. I’m enjoying and embracing every step forward and every obstacle that prohibits steps forward, or that even sets me a few back. Obstacles and set backs are really necessary learning experiences.
Today I’m in gratitude. I might not be in an hour, but for now I am and I’m incredibly grateful.
I could write for hours about how I got here (I promise I won’t). The biggest contributor was my childhood and the mal-adaptive strategies [albeit very normal] I developed early on to deal with life while my brain was forming. One of my newly favorite psychology writers Van Der Kolk calls it Developmental Traumatic Disorder (DTD). This diagnostic explanation is fairly new in the world of Psych. It didn’t quite make it to the DSM 5 which is latest edition of the manual by which mental health clinicians diagnose and bill for disorders. For now the closest diagnosis is PTSD, which DTD is branch of. Particularly for me, for now it’s Delayed Onset, Complex PTSD. It turns out I’m just another statistic and if someone were watching closely, everything that happened to me could have been predicted.
I’ve been through a gamut of emotions the past few months. Many before 7/11, but even more, and much more intensely since. Crazily, but also not surprisingly this episode took place just 2 days and exactly 25 years after what was one of the most transformational days of my life at the time when I was 17. I’d written about it before in My Mom. It’s one of my trigger dates, something I don’t think I fully believed in until this summer. I didn’t consciously recognize the significance of how the date triggered me, but my body did. The Body Keeps the Score.It really does.
What I realized most profoundly this summer is that I have PTSD. I really do. Two and a half years ago I had my first panic attack. I was immediately diagnosed with Anxiety and Panic Disorder. Last summer the PTSD diagnosis was added. While I remember telling people about it, somehow I didn’t realize how important it was to my mental recovery to embrace and work on it. In fact, when the true awareness hit me like a ton of bricks just less than a week after 7/11 this year, I was surprised to realize that I’d been sharing and telling people about it prior to then. A few days ago I re-read something I added to my blog page in May “About Me”, and it was there too! Why wasn’t I working on it?
I wasn’t working on my trauma and PTSD for many reasons. Because it wasn’t urgent and didn’t seem important. Because no one tells you that it’s important. In fact, no one can; it’s something you have to discover on your own when your body is ready. Also because I didn’t have the time or the life style until now. That is why I’m in gratitude this morning. I’m moving in the slow lane and I love it.
From a young age I moved fast. I always had excessive energy. I never understood how anyone could sit at a meeting or in a class and not fidget. I was just always bursting out of my skin. Driving… I had to be in the fast line. I was constantly assessing for traffic, changing lanes with the flow. Heart always racing. Breath always erratic. I was always, always, always looking for more efficient ways to do things. From driving to folding laundry to cleaning… to redesigning whole work groups and even departments at my job. I was good at it. It was a great outlet for my energy. I was efficient and I helped others to be as well. A good use of my talents. Or so I thought.
Now I’m living in the slow lane. I still have the habit of moving fast, but I catch myself at least 80% or so of the time when I realize that for no good reason my heart is in a lurch or my breath isn’t steady. I stop it and slow down. I manage my breath. I smell the roses. I ground myself in the present and it’s SO much better. I think about that quote about how nothing or everything is a miracle, and see things as beautiful. Even ugly things. I wish we could teach our children this from a young age. Instead we are programmed to ‘succeed’, to do more & faster, to have it all, to do it all. We are programmed to think we are a failure if we don’t meet this criteria. On paper by this methodology I was a huge success.
Take two driven people like my husband and myself, put them together, and what do you have? It’s debatable. 7 years ago I would have thought a match made in heaven. In fact at our wedding we incorporated the Japanese term of kaizen (continuous improvement) into our vows. Ugh… how I cringe now. All I can think of is U2’s lyrics in the song ‘Moment of Surrender’
The stone was semi precious
We were barely conscious
Two souls too smart to be
In the realm of certainty
Even on our wedding day
I do believe in continuous improvement, but not in the way it was taught to me (faster, better, do more, etc). I believe it the slow movement. That less is more. That slowing down and even stillness is where the magic of life lies. Take a look at the pets in our lives. They are content with doing less, watching the world outside the window for hours just as it is. Accepting us for who we are. Not caring about how we are dressed or what fancy letters come after our name. They are in a sense more human from a sense of connection than we are. I have four pets. I didn’t even have time to pet them before. I would shoo them away when they came to climb on me when I collapsed on the couch after 16 hours of non-stop movement. We had to have our dog in day care just to get exercise and go out because no one was home long enough to play with him or take him out. Picking him up and dropping him off was another burdened activity on the check-list. Why have pets, kids, a house (2 in our case), a garden, etc – when there was no time to put any love or life into any of it? It’s been a slow realization for me that none of this makes sense. That I was living by a clock and not a compass. It took even longer to do anything meaningful about it. I’m still on that journey and in no rush to any finish line. The unfolding is a beautiful experience that I’m embracing wildly.
I wrote a few paragraphs back that I could write for hours about how I got here. Everyone has their own journey, their own stories, their own level of awareness, and their own (hopefully) point in their life – more often than not in the second half of it, in which they proverbially “wake up”.
My own story started on March 1, 2012. At work I enrolled in a Franklin Covey industry based class for the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It was a 2-day seminar that set the path of a new life for me. At the time I was recently remarried and my husband and I were just finishing up the renovations we worked on non-stopfor 2 months in our new home. I felt SO alive during those renovations. I loved working on the house. We often stayed up until 1 or 2am in the morning on work nights and didn’t feel the least bit exhausted in the morning.
Once the renovations were finishing up I started to feel trapped, bored, and useless. Something I wasn’t accustomed to feeling. Since my husband and I moved in together with our kids the year before I felt like I was mentally unraveling. The renovations were a pleasant distraction. I began going to a bible study at the hospital where I work which one of my vanpool mates hosted. I hung onto many of the teachings and words, learning new language to explain what I was feeling. The Covey class used similar language but explained it in a different way that opened me up in a special fashion. Three things I really connected with was the concept of a paradigm that we see the world through, that I make my own independent choices constantly, and that to feel in line with who you are; we should be living by a compass and not a clock. Wow. This was mind blowing and life changing for me.
Shortly after I explored the bible much more. Then I ran into a Bishop Spong book quite by accident (I honestly cannot remember which one). I was never religious, but grew up Catholic and felt like it was a sin to question anything that didn’t make sense. As soon as my mind took me to those questioning places, guilt kicked in and I pushed it away. The John Shelby Spong book provided the freedom to question what made no sense and shift the focus to something that did in a more mystical, metaphysical way where it allmade sense. From there I found podcasts on the Centers for Spiritual Living to help time pass while having to drive to Bedford, MA quite often for work in 2 ½ hours each direction. Those podcasts prompted me to read the ghastly large book by Ernest Holmes called “The Science of Mind”. The world was opening and unfolding in ways I could have never dreamed. From there for some unknown reason I started taking yoga classes, which spoke the same type of language. Then I would listen to Alan Watts during my lunch walks and long commutes. All different words, but the same beautiful, timeless messages that make sense.
Years later in January 2016 I loved yoga and this way of thinking so much, I started yoga teacher training. My regular life with work, the kids, pets, blended family, commute, and constant RUSH was becoming unsustainable. Why was I adding a full weekend a month commitment to this training? I don’t know but I just felt compelled.
For some reason I thought in yoga teacher training I would learn more about the poses, teaching, and the actual class. Instead, like the Franklin Covey class years before it became a personal journey. I quickly decided that it was a necessity to meditate regularly. Once I started quieting my mind and relaxing regularly, I realized that is how a body should feel and how I lived for the previous 40 years was anything but calm. It started to become unbearable to not feel calm. Combine that with what I now realize is a few PTSD triggers from work at the time, it’s absolutely no surprise that I had my first panic attack exactly when I did and they escalated from there; completely out of control. My body was releasing 40 years worth of emotion that was bubbling just under the surface. The same energy that kept me moving, grooving and successful; was the same energy that was keeping me stressed and mentally unaware that I was damaging myself by not dealing with the trauma that has plagued my mind, body and spirit.
The past two and a half years since have been transformational. A lot of bad and negative things arose, but more positive, learning experiences than anything bad. You have to go through it to move through it. It sounds simple, but it’s much harder than it sounds. It wasn’t until now that I’ve given myself the time and opportunity to heal. But you have to make the time. Your life has to allow it. You have to slow down.
This past summer was rough. I spent hours upon hours writing and allowing myself to remember and experience the anguish of old memories. Many were the same memories that came up during what I now know as PTSD episodes, but I’d felt too ashamed, embarrassed or dramatic to explore. In writing, crying, thinking, gardening, exercising, waking up in the middle of the night, reading, etc – I started to explore my triggers and where they came from. It made sense. I learned more about how the brain is wired and why I seemed to lose control at times. I logged and shared trigger dates with my family. I allowed myself to feel all that I’ve always pushed away and thought I moved past years ago. It was always there waiting for me to deal with it. I just didn’t slow down enough to hear it.
Today I feel good. Over coffee this morning I saw my husband petting one of the cats who was purring where he shouldn’t be (on a counter). When my husband moved his hand away to finish getting ready for work, our cat Gilmore bipped him on the hand – asking for more petting, which Daren provided. We are in a place where we have time to pet our cats. I am thankful I am in a job where if I woke up in the middle of the night and didn’t sleep for hours that the pressure of getting dressed and driving to the office with a smile is not there because I can telework and I’m part-time. I’m thankful for the mental health breakdown this summer. I spent so much time on the days I wasn’t working living like my pets. I napped in the middle of the day if I needed to. I only ate when I was hungry. If I felt like the sun was calling me, I read and wrote outside. If I felt the urge to move I went for a walk, run or bike ride. Listening to my body helped me to attune to what it’s telling me in other ways too. Our bodies are a walking, living, physical communication device. It’s a compass of that path we should be on.
This summer I also listened to the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People CDs that I was provided with from that class back in March of 2012. Listening to the late Stephen Covey’s voice felt like listening to an old friend with sound, sage, timeless advice. I also spent quite a bit of time doing those old exercises again. I created a mission statement, thought about my values and principles, my ‘rocks’, how I communicate with people, how I think and how I live. I thought about the life that I want to program. My own talents. Not the talents the world has barked at me – like designing things bigger better and faster, but what I wanted to be when I was a kid with no restrictions and what that meant. The imprint I want to leave on the world.
These aren’t overnight answers. If I thought for a New York second that I know them right now I’d be fooling myself. I’ll be working on them for the rest of my life. I’m trying diligently to listen to the compass. If we quiet ourselves enough, and ask our inner selves for advice, the most profound wisdom is all there, right within us. Our bodies know what we need. They keep the score.
I almost don’t know how to start this. “Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year” (1)
I am one of those 18.1% who suffer. When I’m in panic it’s almost as if a doppelgängertook over my body. So many people do not understand what happens and that the person has no control over how they feel. Stress and cortisol flood the body.
Last night I had a panic attack. I actually had several in the past week, and 4 or 5 just yesterday alone. What made my last two particularly long and painful is that other people were home and weren’t reacting compassionately. They live with me and don’t quite understand what I go through, how painful it is, and how little to no control I have over how I feel or can possibly react. I can empathize and understand that it can be scary to someone else – really I can. I don’t want to be in full-blown panic either, believe me – way MOREso than the people around me don’t want to see it.
A key driver is understanding. Panic disorder with panic attacks is not something that can be helped at the moment or have a lid put on it. What makes it all so much worse is when those around you and in society judge you and falsely believe mental health issues are something that can be helped (2). I’m writing this because if my own household doesn’t quite understand what this is about, how can any one else? I need to do my part in spreading awareness.
I didn’t know much about true anxiety either. Why should I? We throw the word around a lot. Many of us live with low -evel anxiety constantly. As a society we are mostly all anxious. Anxiety and Panic Disorder is a little different. “This is not to be confused with nervousness — what most people experience in normal situations. Nervousness and anxiety can both cause similar symptoms, but normal nervousness such as how one feels before making a big presentation or applying for a job differs from anxiety in that it’s rational.” (3) Some things can be helped or talked away from. Normal nervousness is one.
I’ve read a lot about anxiety in the past two years since I’ve been diagnosed. Stress is prevalent in our culture. A large part is due to technology and the bombardment of information. Also, the ability for others to reach into our lives at any moment day or night through social media, texting, email, etc. When I was younger and we had a house phone attached to a wall, either going to someone’s house or calling on that phone was the only way to let the outside in. When you left work everyone was shutdown for the day. No one was on texts and emails creating new things to sort through when you got to work – what you left it as the day before is how it was when you arrived the next morning. These things cause constant low-level stress. A text at 9pm makes our hearts beat faster and creates a false sense of urgency to pick up the phone to read it. Whether the message is from a loved one or your boss, the body reacts as if it’s in danger (heart rate, quickened breath, maybe stomach in knots). While we all might experience that quick burst of anxiety when the cell phone dings at 9pm, after a few minutes it goes away. For those of us with an anxiety disorder it not only doesn’t go away, it escalates.
This article describes it better than I can-
“Picture this: you’re asleep at night when suddenly you wake up to the sound of someone breaking into your house. What do you do? You panic, like every sane human being would. You start to sweat, you breathe heavily or struggle to breathe, you feel nauseous, your heart races, there’s a heavy pressure in your chest, so on and so forth.
Now picture something else: all of those symptoms happening when you aren’t actually in any danger. No one is breaking into your house. Nothing is about to harm you or is currently harming you. Your body suddenly just starts to panic anyway. That is a panic attack.”
With panic disorder, the body for no real and current reason goes into full fight or flight mode. It differs for everyone, but for me in particular I’m often triggered by something externally that was threatening in the past. Many times I cannot initially identify the trigger. It is almost impossible too when the brain is flooded and the executive functioning goes offline.
“Panic attacks arouse the body to a peak level of excitement which makes the individual feel not in control of him or herself. The mind is preparing for a false fight or flight mode, forcing the body to take over to help the victim face or run from the perceived danger, real or not.” (4) The reptilian brain that all land creatures have to flee or fight is what takes over. Rational thinking is completely shut down. It’s not the time to start figuring out the cause or rationalizing with the individual.
I want to feel normal and not panic more than anything. Riding it out, medicine and therapy are helpful, but it took years for the body to become dysfunctional to this point; it likely will not go away overnight.
I can tell you what makes it worse for me –
- Being with someone during a panic attack that doesn’t understand and gets annoyed or mad if they can’t help me. I can’t be helped at that point. Someone in my face rationalizing it for me feels condescending. Shunning me at that point feels humiliating and akin to abandonment. I’m humiliated enough. Standing in judgment only makes it worse.
- Another horror is trying to hide it to not scare other people. I feel further trapped. I’ve had panic attacks on an airplane, in restaurants, at work, while driving, while getting ready for bed, when waking up… Of course no one wants to see or hear it, but other people hiding or pretending nothing is going on just makes me feel like a freak creature that needs to be avoided.
- Last but not least on is the shame of having to hide a huge piece of yourself to others. Our society doesn’t look kindly to Mental Health issues. Before suffering myself, I too thought it was the sign of a weak mind and something you can control. Last summer I spent a full month in an IOP (Intensive Outpatient Program). But forbid I let people know. My own step kids and extended family were kept in the dark. I was afraid to tell people at work why I was on FMLA. It may sound silly or it may not, but if I felt that way I would be willing to bet I’m not the only one.
May is Mental Health Awareness month (5). If you don’t suffer from any mental health issues (Yay You!), it’s very likely you know someone who does; you just don’t know they do. Let’s all do our part to bring awareness and be compassionate to one another to avoid shame, humiliation and judgment. We are all human. Let’s treat one another as such.
- Anxiety and Depression Association of America https://adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics#
- We Need to Talk. Our Society Has an Issue With Anxiety and Mental Health. https://futurism.com/we-need-to-talk-our-society-has-an-issue-with-anxiety-and-mental-health/amp/
- https://medium.com/@gtinari/how-to-handle-someone-elses-anxiety-or-panic-attacks-51ee63f5c23bHow to Handle Someone Else’s Anxiety or Panic Attacks
- How to Help Someone Having a Panic Attack https://m-wikihow-com.cdn.ampproject.org/v/s/m.wikihow.com/Help-Someone-Having-a-Panic-Attack?amp=1&_js_v=0.1&usqp=mq331AQECAEoAQ%3D%3D#origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com&prerenderSize=1&visibilityState=prerender&paddingTop=54&p2r=0&horizontalScrolling=0&csi=1&aoh=15272981860562&viewerUrl=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2Famp%2Fs%2Fm.wikihow.com%2FHelp-Someone-Having-a-Panic-Attack%253famp%3D1&history=1&storage=1&cid=1&cap=swipe%2CnavigateTo%2Ccid%2Cfragment%2CreplaceUrl
- Mental Health America http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/may
Have you ever considered you might have been brainwashed? Why aren’t we rebelling against anything? It seems like everyone is an automaton just going about life without thinking.
Brainwashed? Me? No way! Why do you ask – How do you mean?
Let me try to explain. I think…
This was an email exchange between my brother and I just this morning. I had sent out the weekly schedule to help track (believe it or not) the 4-8 family members that regularly stay at our home in Cheshire on any given evening (including him).
Mario: “Looks good. I guess Tommy working is just every day thing. How’s Gabby?”.
Me: “She’s good. Needs eye-glasses, to fix her car, deal with concussion and find a job.
Tom is only working Wed-Sun this week, don’t know next week yet. He wants to move to Maine for the summer to rent a house with friends from school- jobless, with a car payment, needing to save for next insurance installment & all…. We had a short scuffle about it on Monday with his Hollywood jazz blaring in the background over breakfast. Good times.
Kieran came back yesterday without warning and brought his friend Michele over. Despite me & Daren asking him numerous times what his plan is every week and if we will see him – he just showed up at 12 in the afternoon with the proclamation he is staying “many days” via a text to Daren only moments before which he later tells us is because “Mother is away”.
Gilmore is missing. We all saw him before Devin’s concert last night & not since. He didn’t show up for breakfast. I’m a bit sad & worried.”
Mario: “That’s all? I don’t’ think I could say anything that would help… Keep doing those practices. Gilly, I am sure will return. He has it too good there.”
To explain a bit –
Tommy is my 21-year-old biological son who moved back home from college last winter in what should have been junior year at the University of Southern Maine. He’s currently on the 5-8 year college plan. Gabby is my 18-year-old bio daughter who just got home from freshman year at the University of Rhode Island on Tuesday evening. Kieran is my 18-year old step-son who lived with us regularly since 2011, but in the past two years makes sporadic proclamations about living here or at his moms… he will often dramatically pack up everything and go to one place or another without warning. Devin is my 15-year-old step-son who is a high school freshman. Gilmore is one of my 3 cats… or was one of them. He still isn’t back. He’s never been gone before. Escaped yes, but we see him sneak out and promptly catch him. He’s 8+, never been outside (so not street smart from a cat sense) and quite plump– a perfect morsel for any wildlife that might live in the woods behind our home. And we have a dog. My brother Mario has been staying with us since last fall regularly on and off.
That’s my quick background of a standard, crazy week at the Anderson-Messeder household. I wish I could say these unusual things like busted cars, concussions, family members coming and going, missing animals, etc; was truly unusual – and they are, but there is ALWAYS something truly unusual and outstanding going on around here. It makes it hard to predict what it will be.
OK – so there is a lot on my plate. I think I’m a good person. I’m a normal citizen. I do my part & then some. I pay my taxes. I regularly shop with extreme coupons and donate the items to a domestic violence shelter weekly. I am involved in an organization to volunteer my time to teach yoga at a shelter. I teach yoga outside of that too. I work part-time for the VA hospital where I’ve worked full time for 15 years until recently. I manage a vacation rental that starting around now in May gets turned over around once a week. I take care of our home and pets. My husband & I are a blended family and I’ve tried to be the best mother and step mother that I can be.
So why don’t I feel good about myself? Why do I want to rebel against modern society and the way we live?
Because it’s all so selfish and if I’m honest with myself seriously quite ridiculous.
Because our kids have more than enough and then some and just don’t appreciate any of it.
Because I have more than makes me happy and I feel like a prisoner trying to keep up with it all.
Because other people are suffering and the non-sense… (and boy do I mean non-senseof my everyday life) just gets in the way of doing something meaningful.
Because as I sit here writing this, there are humans being trafficked around my own state.
Because 1 in 4 college girls is sexually assaulted and we accept this as the norm (and these are just reported cases!). One of my daughter’s best friends from high school was raped the first night of being a freshman. She went to the ER and did all the right things and has been working all year with the insurance company to keep it from her parents because she feels bad since she was drinking. A colleague of mine just posted a story on Facebook written by her daughter who is a sophomore – a tribute to how messed up the system has been to her after her own rape.
How do we sit tight as women right now knowing in our own first world countrythat we only make 81 cents to the dollar of men if you are white – and lessif you aren’t?
There are school shootings or a threat of one DAILY. DAILY!!! My niece who is 8 tells us about regular drills at school where they never know if it’s a real shooting or not. The kids have to run to the closest closet or hiding place for 20-30 minutes at a time so they are well practiced when there is a real school shooter.
GMOs in our food, chemicals in our tampons to make us bleed more, animals on antibiotics that are mindlessly slaughtered and consumed without a single thought, k-cups and other disposables being used like there is no tomorrow and the earth can handle endless plastic and CO2, hazing, gay bashing, homeless beatings, domestic violence… Whiskey Tango Foxtrot! For those who aren’t familiar with the phonetic alphabet – it’s WTF or even more literally translated as “What the Fuck”.
But we just come home and go to little league games where everyone is special and gets a trophy, have a beer or glass of wine on the sofa while watching the “heros” on TV who shoot up drugs, beat their wives and cheat on the sports we are watching, or make our favorite recipes using the chemically laden ingredients we bought off the supermarket shelves on the way home from (to mimic the sayings of a YouTube video I posted on Facebook not all too long ago [which shock of all shocks hardly got any likes]) our jobs in our cars that we need our jobs to pay off, to our homes that also aren’t paid off where no one is home to enjoy most of the day.
It’s all too much. I understand why we anesthetize ourselves and ignore everything else. It feels better to buy a new bag or computer than to immerse ourselves in the hard stuff of the world. To be absorbed in the world of fashion or some new mindless song about the cute boy who doesn’t know I exist. Or to drink, or to eat, or to have sex. Get me out of here!
Why aren’t we marching in the streets? Why don’t we realize or even want to stand up for our rights for ourselves and for other humans or sentient beings? To do so feels very anti-establishment, right? It shouldn’t. But we’ve been brainwashed to believe that if we could afford to buy that new car, bag, house, computer (on CREDITbtw) then we’ve “made it” and we should be happy.
Once you realize this and want to do something, the ones still brainwashed question your sanity so it makes you feel like you are the one out of your mind. Hence, we develop mental illnesses that we are prescribed drugs for, so we can comply with the way everything ‘is’ and ‘fit in’.
I’m not alright with this. This kid (me) is not alright.
The lyrics below are from a great song by Awolnation. Just look at the name of the group AWOL NATION.
That is what we are folks – just absent. It’s true whether you want to believe it or not. We should be rebelling. But like you, I’m too tired after dealing with the plethora of non-sense of my own small life. It’s the perfect system – make me love these things that I need to care for that take all of my time, leaving me with nothing to give and nothing to gain other than to pay for the things I hardly have time to enjoy on credit. Gotta love it all.
For now, I’ll just preach about the craziness of it all. I will never be in your face I promise – because I don’t have a leg to stand on like anyone else. I’ll be vegan most of the time and wear a nose ring until people ask me why. I can only hope to spread a little awareness and love along the way. Hugs, kisses, peace & Namaste.
AWOLNATION – This Kid’s Not Alright
(I still don’t know what I’m doing…
Troubles coming for the free men
We shake them, shake them with the free hand
So stand tall, shout out with me
Do your dirty work without me, Say you’re best when no one can see
Stand up, catch fire with me
(This kid, this kid, this kid, this kid, this kid)
This kid’s not alright
This kid’s not alright
This kid’s not alright
But this kid’s not alright
I’ve been sleeping with these
I’ve been sleeping with these thoughts, man
I’ve been contemplating singing them
So stand up, catch fire with me
(This kid, this kid, this kid, this kid, this kid)
You can follow them to hell
This kid’s not alright
This kid’s not alright
This kid’s not alright
But this kid’s not alright
I’m scared, I may derail
You can follow them to hell
You can follow them to hell
You can follow them to hell
You can follow them to hell
You can follow them to hell
This kid’s not alright
You can follow them to hell
This kid’s not alright
You can follow them to hell
This kid’s not alright
You can follow them to hell
But this kid’s not alright
Over the past few weeks due to two different workshops I have attended, I’ve been very interested in learning a little more about the moon and it’s cycles. Coincidentally and unrelated to the workshops, an organization I volunteer for is having a retreat in the Catskills one weekend to learn more about the moon.
The moon affects our tides and the sea. They are predictable, as predictable as the sun rising and setting. We can look up the sunrise, moon phases and tide tables for the next hundred years and be sure that is what is going to happen.
For my birthday this year Daren booked a trip a few months ahead to one of our favorite destinations in the world – York, ME. We are here now. We left yesterday afternoon and drove up in the pouring rain. As we pulled into the Airbnb he rented on the water, the rain stopped and the sun began an attempt to peep through the grey clouds.
Situated at the end of a small street extension, the quaint New England house from the outside was adorable. As we opened the lockbox to get the key I was already sad we only had three nights here.
We opened the door to the house and were instantly in awe at the view of the ocean from the house. The inside was even more special. We went upstairs to drop off our bags and the view from the master bedroom was even more amazing. I felt my heart slow down, my blood pressure decrease and an overall sense of peace. I love coming to Maine. We have vacationed here with the kids and alone for at least six years now. It’s like coming home.
There is something about being near the ocean that calms me and feels like home. The smell of marine life, the sound of waves crashing against the shore, the mystery and vastness… how it can look so different at any time of the day or year. Between the tide changes, sun position, weather… it never gets old.
We only live about 45 minutes from the Long Island sound, but it’s the furthest I’ve lived from the water in my life. It’s probably no coincidence that at this time in life I suffer from anxiety. There are definable other factors too- the second half of life, blended family woes, being more spiritual… but I can’t discount the lack of water in my life.
In a workshop I attended last week I learned that water absorbs our heavy energies and carries it away. I can almost feel this. It might be why I feel like a completely different person when we spend time in the house that we have on the Airbnb market in Branford, CT.
I feel that being near the water and being more directly, physically affected by the tides also helps to put us even more in touch with nature. For example here in Maine and in Branford, certain beaches don’t even exist at high tide. At our home in Branford during low tide you can actually walk down the steps in our yard to the cove and over to the sound or across to another house, or during high tide you can use those same steps to kayak away from the house. Fisherman, seaside towns, and many maritime cultures alike live and plan their day by the tides. When you accept that you can only do certain things as nature provides it to you, I feel it can help you accept that we can’t always manipulate life and that it’s important to live with the elements. Overall we became more adaptable, well adjusted people who can steer a sailboat (figuratively) using the elements of life rather than trying to fight them.
At our home in Branford, I provide our renters with a sunrise & set schedule so they can decide if they would like to watch it. I let them know where the best places are whether it be in our yard or down the street to catch either. I also provide a little chart with the tides and phases of the moon. The full moon at the beach 100 steps from our front door is not a site to be missed on a clear night. The tides in our area will dictate when you can sit on the beach or kayak.
I don’t think many folks know why, but in many comments in the guest book or on the sites where the vacation rental is listed, our guests have commented about how calm they feel and that they felt so connected to nature there.
Living in, around, and with nature helps us feel connected to it. In our modern lives we almost never feel that connection. Somehow the tree’s leaves just appeared or it was daytime. Sensing the change and being witness to the artistic beauty the universe provides helps me to be connected to the universe itself. Being connected gives me clarity about the role of my small, selfish thoughts in the big picture; helps me feel the divine connection I have to everyone and everything, and helps me to want to just be a better person.
Below,in order, is the view as I write this blog this morning,the sunrise that woke us up from the master bedroom window and some lobster traps left for the season at Perkins Cove last night
The refrain of this song is used on both of U2’s most recent albums, Songs of Innocence (2014) and Songs of Experience (2017). It was called “A Song for Someone” on the 2014 album, and a “There is a Light” on the 2017 album. Both titles make sense, as the refrain uses both lines.
It’s a beautiful song that speaks to me in the way of communicating with our own soul, or that part of ourselves that is all knowing and sits quietly waiting for us to be wise enough to just listen to it. To do so, we need to be quiet and tune in.
If there is a light
You can’t always see
And there is a world
We can’t always be
If there is a dark
Now we shouldn’t doubt
And there is a light
Don’t let it go out…
‘Cause this is a song
A song for someone
Someone like me
I didn’t like this song other than this part the first several times I heard it. Daren and I went to see the Innocence + Experience Tour in 2015. When Bono announced this song I believe said he wrote it for an old friend back in Ireland. When the last album came out a few months ago, Daren and I were listening to it together in the car on the way to Long Island. There is a Lightcame on closer to the end of the album (13). As soon as the refrain started I began to sing along. It was much slower than the original, but a welcome surprise I didn’t expect – like an old friend who is who is an improved version of themselves.
Like most songs – they have meaning in the ear of the beholder. Most of (if not all) of U2 songs have a very spiritual meaning to me. I was listening to this song in my own car a few weeks later when I started to thinking about the light that is always inside of us. Our own special light that can never go out but we cannot always see or connect to it. The world is at a physical level, so it would make sense that if there is a world we can’t always be connected to our spiritual/non-physical selves. At the time I was also putting together a yoga workshop on Tao yoga and was completely absorbed and fascinated by the concept of opposites. The dark/light comparison lines just really made sense. To me the songs speak of the relationship our ego and mind have with our soul, or that part of ourselves that contains the divine.
On the Songs of Innocence album – the lyrics are more of the innocent mind set. Likely before hard falls that take place in life, but about one who realized this relationship to their higher self and is on the journey of discovery. I hear it almost as if the ego is talking to the higher self, as the higher self doesn’t have a voice of it’s own. The ego translates what it tells us in words, but the higher self is not speaking in words. Similar to the way the bible explains how our ancestors may have heard the voice of God without hearing actual words.
You got a face not spoiled by beauty
I have some scars from where I’ve been
Our higher self cannot be anything other than perfect, while our physical self is scarred with imperfection.
You’ve got eyes that can see right through me
You’re not afraid of anything they’ve seen
Our own spirit is all knowing and you can’t hide anything from it, as it knows everything about you including what you think. And whatever it is – it’s all ok, we are human so we cannot be perfect and we have the capacity for forgiveness.
You let me into a conversation
A conversation only we could make
You break and enter my imagination
Whatever’s in there
It’s yours to take
Only we can have conversation with ourselves, and whatever is imagined we can decide if we want it there by taking notice and changing our thoughts.
And I’m a long way
From your hill of Calvary
And I’m a long way
From where I was, where I need to be
The hill of Calvary is literally & figuratively far away, and while I’m on the path to freedom/actualization/peace/heaven [whatever you want to call it] and far from where I started, there is still a ways to go.
The song 13 (There is a light) seems to speak about someone who has almost given up on their higher self. It’s off the Songs of Experience album and seems to speak to one who has been a bit more hardened by the cruel world.
And if the terrors of the night
Come creeping into your days
And the world comes stealing children from your room
Guard your innocence
And know that darkness always gathers around the light
There are negative thoughts in your mind. You don’t want them there but they show up. The world stealing children from your room (you/your construct) means that your innocence has been compromised. The lyrics ask that you guard it from things that aren’t there which you may think up and not want there (hallucinate); but know that there is a light right there that this dark drifts to. At the point of darkness in your life it’s normal to drift to the spiritual (light).
When the wind screams and shouts
And the sea is a dragon’s tail
And the ship that stole your heart away
When all you’ve left is leaving
And all you got is grieving
And all you know is needing
All these things will happen. Your heart will be broken, life is going to be hard, and we seem to only know through our physical self the perpetual never-ending material wants that can never be satisfied.
I know the world is done
But you don’t have to be
It’s to hard to fight the pull of the physical world so don’t be too hard on yourself when you fail, as the desires of the flesh will always be there. But that doesn’t mean you have to give up.
I’ve got a question for the child in you before it leaves
Are you tough enough to be kind?
Do you know your heart has its own mind?
Darkness gathers around the lights
Before giving up on the beauty and innocence you once had, know it’s tougher to be kind in a world that will always let you down. A child like heart will give you that strength to keep kind. The heart has a mind of it’s own and that “mind” has the right/kind answer every time.
This is my own loving/Esterina take on these two songs. I feel they speak of our own song with our souls or spirits within us. We just need to open up and listen. The answers and strength are all there in a never ending well.
‘Cause this is a song for someone like me.