On Being AWOL Through Life

via Daily Prompt: Rebel

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’.

OK?

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…
Fuck!)

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

Unknown

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/rebel/

On Vagueness

via Daily Prompt: Vague

When an answer or story is vague, antennas should be tuning in because vagueness is often based in hiding something. There are some good reasons to hide something – like a surprise, staying out of drama, or even just dancing around an answer to the question about what you are doing a particular evening if you don’t know if the person asking was invited to the event you are going to.

More often than not though, vagueness is usually a warning sign to pay attention. If we pay attention we would know when to dig deeper. And if we really reallypaid attention; we might be able to even tell on a subtle level if there cause of vagueness is for a positive or negative reason. It’s not difficult, it just takes some awareness and tuning in.

Most of us want to believe what we would like in order to keep our worlds as we would like them to be. We ignore the vague nagging in our guts that is signaling something isn’t right. The answers that don’t add up but we don’t seem to have time to prod. The person we love and want to trust so we don’t question. The sales pitch that doesn’t quite sit right but the evidence to the contrary is showing all peaches and roses.

I’ve been duped many times in my life. When I look back at the lies I’ve been told or the hidden truths I’ve discovered, I know that at some point there was a very quiet alarm bell that I had ignored. In hindsight I recognize that I knew it, but at the time I wanted to believe what I wanted to believe. Sometimes it’s easier to keep going by ignoring the unpleasant. But it often makes things worse in the long run. Perhaps recognizing the feeling and asking just another question or two could really prevent future harm.

We could be saving battered women and children. Hearing a real cry for help from a depressed loved one. Finding out an employee isn’t really all he or she is cracked up to be after all. Learning that your spouse is an adulterer. Recognizing your child is using drugs. Unearthing who the real culprit is when you are in the midst of drama. Saving a trafficked human. Preventing a diploma getting into the hands of someone who hasn’t worked for it.

I know I’ve recognized the feeling before that arose out of vagueness. Have you felt that alarm bell too? Was it mostly good or bad? Do you wish you paid attention earlier? What could you have prevented?

 

 

On a Song for Someone

via Daily Prompt: Song

From
U2

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.

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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
From hallucination
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
Sets sail

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.

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On the Sound of Silence

via Daily Prompt: Froth

When I first saw the word froth this morning as the daily blog prompt, images of cappuccinos and beer danced in my head. On the surface that is what I think of. Strangely, froth too is on the surface. Froth is mostly empty and provides little more than a fleeting pleasure to the tongue before it fades fairly quickly on its own. While it looks pleasant and inviting, it’s also hiding what is underneath.

When my husband Daren and I first moved into together with our four children, now well over 7 years ago; there was a noticeable difference between my two biological children and my two step-children. They had a lot to say and my two children and I did not. Often times when Daren and I were alone he shared that he felt uncomfortable with the silence and commented about how different it felt from being with his ex where there was non-stop chatter.

At first I felt motivated to talk more. The dinner table was usually dominated by Daren asking everyone questions with my two children providing short answers and my step-children providing very long detailed answers that dominated the rest of the meal. I tried to jump in and ask questions, but I felt very fake in doing so. When Daren would come home and ask how my day was I would say something along the line of ‘Good and how was yours?’ He would answer in detail about how wonderful the day was. Every day. To be honest I didn’t find this intriguing; I found it quite annoying.

It’s not a pleasant feeling to be annoyed with your spouse over a silly question about how the day was. I didn’t like myself for it and sort of felt embarrassed that I didn’t really care enough to hear about the wonderful day he had. Oddly he left out things that really mattered that would bug me or I needed to know– like that he drove to another state, had a paper published that he forwarded to his parents and kids but never thought to send it to me too, or that his ex asked him several days ago to switch an evening so the kids will be here tomorrow evening… and they need rides all over the state.

I was finding a lump in my throat when asked a question by my new family or when I even tried to consider a response. I started to become speechless. I never considered myself of my former family quiet by any stretch. I couldn’t quite put my finger on this. The blended family dinners were particularly of dis-ease. Daren would start to get desperate and go around the table with particular questions like what was your most favorite part of the day? My kids would look uncomfortable as his started talking. Eventually his children sensed this and became uncomfortable too. Everyone would clear their plates as soon as possible and ask to be excused no matter how many different attempts we made at having a conversation we could all enjoy.

I’m incredibly embarrassed to say that it took far longer than it should to even determine what the proverbial ‘bee in my bonnet’ was about the whole thing. It was almost two years later while listening to Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘Sound of Silence’ that I really heard their lyrics for the first time. I became teary eyed- “People talking without speaking. People hearing without listening”. What was bothering me wasn’t the amount of the conversation, it was the content. Or should I say lack there of?

The content remained very much on the surface and was full of air – like froth. The kids would sit at our dinner table politely waiting their own turn. No one was listening to nor cared what anyone else was saying Perhaps my kids picked up on that first and kept their answers short to spare everyone else the details. His children didn’t see the signs that no one was really listening and kept going. It was froth. You got to only show what you want to. It either felt like strangers waiting online at the coffee shop trying to make small talk, or two previous competing colleagues meeting up to catch up and notate each and every accomplishment and good thing in their life since they last met.

I started to notice the same conversations all around me outside of my home too. Conversations wrought with wonderful, just wonderful days. Days filled with accomplishments and learning experiences. The ‘engaged’ listener would mechanically ask the ‘right’ inquiring questions with a curious, well planted look on their face; smiling on cue and sitting on the edge of their seat. The edge of seat sitting wasn’t due to the amazing story the engaged listener was ‘hearing’, they were at the edge of their seat putting together their own story of how wonderful everything is and their own accomplishments. It seems as if everyone was “one-upping” each other. After all is said and done, there is an invisible pat on each other’s back – both acknowledging one another’s greatness. From my own experience in these types of conversations for a moment both parties feel confident and good about themselves. But moments upon walking away they are filled with emptiness.

On the opposite end of the spectrum are the complainers. The co-workers who consistently sit around with a scowl on their face having something to say about everyone’s every move. Little tiny molehills that would never even be thought about are turned into major catastrophes. Opinions and platitudes without substance are just spewed out like lava erupting from a volcano at periodic, random times.

The newfangled observation of conversations that always took place really started to trouble me. Although I participated in them myself from time-to-time, I had to really stop and think about how I must be perceived. Do I complain too much? Is anyone really interested in my stupid stories that might have gone on for too long? If I didn’t find a person interesting or I found them to be entirely too caught up in themselves, but I sat with them for a long time acting very interested – doing all the right things; looking them in the eye, asking the right questions, throwing my hair back and leaning in…. then perhaps they didn’t find me interesting either. What a concept! Me not interesting? My complaints not valid?? Then it hit me, or course not. We are all actors in a very lonely play. Doing what we are supposed to on stage, but not really connecting at any human level. If you were really paying attention to me; I was probably glancing at my watch, looking around the room to find a way out, and dropping all types of conversation enders. All until the conversation turned back to me of course. How engaging… not!

At home at least I thought I had a respite. A place to kick back, be real and stay away from the superficial banter of the real world. Prior to my new marriage; my children, ex-husband and I had plenty to say around the dinner table, but the content was different. We shared funny stories that happened that day, talked about something in the news or something that happened to someone we all knew, or chitchatted about things we all liked such as our pets. Sometimes there was a lesson or dinner manner correction, but it flowed all very naturally and with ease. In my new family I felt like I was on stage, having to watch every word. Sound happy so the kids don’t go back to their other parent with anything negative. Be cheerful and say the right things even when I was being called names and ignored. It was too much and too too too fake.

I started thinking entirely too much about conversations and communication. While I heard many details about Daren’s great days, the more he shared; the less I wanted to. I didn’t always have a great day. It was too much mental energy to keep up with him to rehash my ‘best of Esterina moments’ and amazing learning experiences. It’s not that I didn’t have any, it’s just that they didn’t fill me up or bring me pleasure to share. Yes, I want my partner to be proud of me and to be proud of my partner, but not in this way. Don’t get me wrong, we did have deep conversations too. Many evenings when both sets of kids were with their other parents, we shared some wine and sat for long hours after dinner having the most intellectually stimulating conversations. I just didn’t like what we did at dinner or after work.

The Sound of Silence resonated with me. These surface conversations that I noticed I was having or hearing all the time didn’t feel like anyone was really listening or cared. I didn’t connect with the other person through these dialogues. The topics stayed light and empty. I almost preferred the [How are you? Good and you? Good] types of exchanges because at the very least they weren’t pretending to be anything that they were not. People just hearing without listening. I was craving something more. I realized how lonely this is and desired deeply to connect with others.

I did talk with Daren about this occasionally. He didn’t understand and took it the wrong way. It was a bit of a source of contention. When I thought I discovered the meaning to The Sound of Silence, I played it in the car with Daren. When it was over I asked him what it meant to him. He honed in on the line “Silence like a cancer grows” and said he was happy that I could understand what he meant when he comments about how he felt uncomfortable with the silence. As the song states, it creates a cancer between people.

UGH…. That isn’t how I interpreted it. I became annoyed and said something to the effect of ‘that’s not what it means’. For me it meant that the emptiness of the conversation is the silence. People have so much more richer, deep, meaningful things to say than they communicate; but don’t share them (writing songs they never share). Perhaps people are to busy to connect so they talk about only the good stuff, but that feels very empty and phony to both the speaker and listener. If you always hear others talking about good stuff and posting social media images and messages about good stuff; then we never cut below the real surface of life to what we truly experience. It’s a construct, an ideal. A neon god that we are worshiping.

As a society we generally stay silent about things that matter. Simon and Garfunkel were pre-social media, but we’ve taken that to the online streets as well. Afraid that posting strong feelings about anything that could be perceived as controversial might paint ourselves in a negative light to someone else. So we hide our passions, we don’t act or behave as we really are from deep down in the heart, and we only share our surface facade. It leads to not fighting for social justice, animal rights, gay marriage – or anything that might bring us closer as a human race to acceptance and compassion.

The more we open up about what is really going on with us, share our failures in addition to our successes and stop giving ourselves and everyone else a trophy for mediocrity; perhaps the more willing we would be to put our beliefs on the line to fight for what matters to us deep down- picket, participate in a sit in, or even just write a passionate letter to a Congressman.

To revisit that day in the car, I said many of these things – only with a much hotter head and louder voice. Daren and I debated about what the lyrics meant, and didn’t even agree to disagree – we just disagreed. Not long ago we listened to the song again in the car. Daren, forgetting the entire previous conversation we had said afterwards – “Wow that is deep!”. I asked again what it meant to him. This time we had a very cerebral, respectful discussion and I felt a real connection to another human.

Presently Daren and I’s post work conversations are far more real and down to earth. Communication about important logistical matters has gotten better but there are occasional, annoying lapses. Our dinner table dynamic never did improve. It has remained an uncomfortable staple in our home for years. Every once in while we will have an enjoyable, participatory family discussion; but those are way too few and far between. At least I now know it’s the froth that bugs me. The knowing allows me to step back and not engage in what isn’t me.

It’s been years since Daren has said anything to me about silence. I don’t talk any more or less than I used to, but our norm as a couple has shifted. Although he may be annoyed with me for over sharing here in this blog, I am confident that he too now has little tolerance for empty blathering covered in froth and would actually prefer the sound of silence to it.

Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence

In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone
‘Neath the halo of a street lamp
I turned my collar to the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light
That split the night
And touched the sound of silence

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence

Fools, said I, you do not know
Silence like a cancer grows
Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you
But my words, like silent raindrops fell
And echoed in the wells of silence

And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made
And the sign flashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming
And the sign said, the words of the prophets are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls
And whispered in the sounds of silence

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On The Monkey Mind vs Spirit

We are born with nothing, even clothes. At the moment of death we might be donning some attire, and perhaps be clutching something –a person, animal or object (or all 3). But those physical remnants remain. We come into the world with nothing physical but the body. When we leave, we leave even the body behind. The only thing that goes is that light in our eyes, our spirit.

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So why do we become attached to anything? Why do we spend that precious time between life and death hauling around stuff? Worrying about stuff? ‘Stuff’ being our cars, clothes, friends, jobs, or status. The only thing that really matters is the imprint we leave on the planet, created through our spirit. We can’t haul anything but our spirit out of this world, so why isn’t the spirit the main focus of living? Why are we focused on stuff?

I started yoga like many others for the physical practice. My first experience was with a VHS tape at home in my living room. “This is easy!” I thought. It must be because I’m flexible and was a dancer when I was young. I moved from position to position and sat there waiting to see what I would be told by the TV to do next. I ignored the cues to breath “Geez, I know how to breath” and ‘open up’ “Isn’t that what I’m doing?”. I was annoyed at the end when the suggestion was to lie on my back for several minutes. “What a waste of time!”

I went to actual classes a few times, but I didn’t quite understand it. I only did yoga at home because I heard it was good for you. I didn’t particularly enjoy it and I absolutely skipped the lying on your back part at the end.

Until one day I went to a class at a local chiropractic office that was offering free classes for a week. The classes all had different names. I couldn’t tell them apart and really didn’t care. The time I was able to get home from work and get my husband situated with the kids was far more important. I went to a class Monday and Tuesday. Same experience, but this time I had to lie in silence at the end. I really disliked that part. However, the Wednesday class was life altering. It was called “Love your body yoga”. Yoga was yoga to me. The postures all even seemed the same. But there was something different about this class. Perhaps the teacher’s voice or encouragement, I don’t know; it was too long ago now to remember. Somehow though, I was able to do the postures better. I listened to the cues to breath and expand in certain parts. I moved slowly, mindfully, and with grace. At the end I was looking forward to the lying meditation (known as savasana – pronounced “shavasana”). During savasana the teacher came around with an oil for our foreheads. When she gently put her hands on my temples I felt at such peace I almost wanted to cry. The smell was like light and citrusy, but like incense. The experience was so comforting. When I left class I kept touching my forehead and smelling the oil. I felt a sense of peace.

My practices at home became a little different after that, although I was never able to get into a good routine and reap the benefits of yoga. Years later on a whim I signed up for a local class at the Park & Rec. I knew yoga was good for me, I knew how to do it (I thought), and I wanted a steady place where I knew I wouldn’t be lazy and skip it.

The first class was amazing. I drove away with a sense of bliss. That night in bed when I turned over in the middle of the night I felt space in my body as well as an overall sense of harmony. I kept going and the benefits kept getting better and better. It wasn’t very long before I had my first cry on the mat while in pigeon (something I now know is quite common). Soon after that; the mind, body, spirit connection was undeniable. Where has this been all my life? Do other people know about it? Why isn’t this more well known??? Our spirit is the key to life.

I didn’t know it until long after I started yoga teacher training, but the word yoga means “to yoke”. Particularly; to yoke the mind, body, and spirit. I know there are many other ways to link the mind, body and spirit. Others have found the answers in various different ways, but have come to the same sense of yoking. Once you sense that connection to the mind, body, and spirit it’s difficult to go back to the material way of living because you know deep down that it doesn’t matter.

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Yoga isn’t a magical cure that works all the time. In fact many times I move through a whole practice and never feel ‘settled’. The difference is that I know my mind, body and spirit are disconnected and that I do not like feeling that sense of separation. I know that giving into that separation by trying to fill the space between with stuff only leads to suffering and a sense of even more separation. I know this and most of the time cannot master it. But the time in between remembering where the sense of true peace comes from grows a tiny bit each day.

The time in between birth and death is our life. In that life we accumulate things. Physical things. We become attached to those things. We become attached to people. We become attached to happiness and think something is wrong when we are sad. We need to eat, sleep, and eliminate to order to function and stay healthy. To stay healthy through eating, sleeping and eliminating we need stuff. So we spend our lives from birth to death hauling around stuff. Stuff to eat, stuff to sleep, stuff to look good in the eyes of others. At any moment in time we are likely hauling stuff, whether it’s a wallet, purse, tube of lip balm, or like me – bags and bags of food, drink, or ‘stuff’ I might need.

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I’m not proposing that we don’t have stuff. We absolutely need to haul around things from day to day, or house-to-house, or city-to-city in order to function and stay alive. The disconnect comes in two forms: 1) From taking more than you need. 2) Becoming attached to that stuff.

There are two ways to not take more than you need and/or become attached. 1) You can listen to authorities that preach this. 2) You can discover for yourself.

The problem with number 1 is that most of those who preach it and know it at a spirit level do not practice this. Our parents taught us not to take more than you need, but we then probably watched them eat, buy, shop, and generally consume more than they needed. We observed as they became attached to their jobs, cars, houses, other people, stories, the news, etc. The same went for teachers, preachers, friends, family… the society that shaped our thoughts growing up. The message was conflicted and if you are anything like me, didn’t even question the confliction.

Discovering this for yourself is a whole different ballgame. Once you realize that non-attachment and taking only what you need is the key to liberation, it’s hard not to incorporate it into your decisions. Before the discovery on your own, the hypocritical authoritative voice in your mind may have caused a sense of guilt; but the knowing it is not right through your very own voice is far more powerful.

Old habits are incredibly difficult to break. There is not a switch that goes off where one starts to make perfect decisions from here forth. In fact there is more debate, guilt and remorse over not making the right decision than ever.

Wikipedia describes the Monkey Mind as a Buddhist term meaning “unsettled; restless; capricious; whimsical; fanciful; inconstant; confused; indecisive; uncontrollable”. The monkey mind is the voice in the head that never stops talking. Like a monkey it cannot sit still. It jumps from thought-to-thought, worry-to-worry, new shiny object to new shiny object, without a care in the world. It is like a toddler that never grows up. It responds to the wiring in the brain that lights up “like” impulse. It likes stuff – food, taste, status, objects. Its concerns are all about ‘me, me, me’.

The spirit on the other hand is quiet and all knowing. It knows right from wrong. It will make the best, most loving, decision on behalf of the good of your body and the the world every time. The spirit doesn’t talk to you, but if you ask it – it will give the mind the right answer.

Here is where you learn that the habits formed in your physical brain wire faster and respond more quickly to your mind than what your spirit speaks to it. Your mind has been accustomed to ignoring that wise, quiet, but all knowing spirit within because that monkey chatter is so loud. We give into it as we might a toddler, just to quiet it down. It’s why yoking the mind, body and spirit are so important. Once they are all on the same page – there is no conflict. The right path is clear.

Even if you haven’t yet made the mind, body and spirit connection on your own or have no idea what I’m talking about and are curious –

  • Consider not hauling around so much stuff – whether it’s physical or emotional.
  • Become unattached, knowing that nothing ever lasts.
  • Take only what you need.

Know with practice and time, the space between remembering becomes greater and greater…. and with that comes a sense of peace.

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DailyPost: Haul

A Frigid New England Morning

I take a deep breath on this frigid New England morning. The air feels cold and steely in my lungs, but at the same time incredibly refreshing compared to the re-circulated dry, warm air in the house just two feet behind me. I am barefoot on the small, colorful, and very wet welcome mat on my back deck. From inside it looked a bit warmer out, but one inhale tells a different story.

The thermometer reads 22 degrees Fahrenheit. Even though the air is cold and frigid, there are several signs that spring is on the way. The most exciting sign for me is the red buds on the trees that boarder our yard. Despite the cold, the trees are aware of the subtle shifts in the atmosphere and are preparing to put forth an abundance of greenery in just a few short weeks. While I’m looking out I can see signs of frost on the top of the barbeque cover, yet I hear birds singing and chirping in the air. That is not something I can say in February. Just the mere fact that the porch furniture was put out means there was a day warm enough not long ago that prompted us to ritualistically begin preparations for the warmer months.

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In the evenings while laying in bed at night, I am able to hear the peeper frogs through my closed bedroom window. In the late spring and summer when we sleep with the windows open, we not only hear the peepers; but all types of crickets and woodsy life through the evening.

For months the ground has been receiving precipitation in the form of freezing rain and snow. But the ground was solid, even during some of the unusually warm 50 degree days in the past few months. Despite the cold, the extra sun is warming our ground to sufficiently keep a thaw as evidenced by my weight digging ever so slightly into the dirt. This I notice while walking the dog after dinner or while cutting across the lawn to grab the mail.

As I stand on the deck looking out, I feel a flutter of excitement in my chest. Summer is on the way. The cover on the grill will be perpetually removed as we spend many evenings cooking outside instead of in the kitchen. The deck furniture will constantly be moved, full or crumbs and stained with ketchup due to the many hours we move the chairs from the sun, pull a chair in closer to watch a movie together around a laptop, and eat almost every meal al fresco.

A look over the deck down to the yard below has my heart fluttering a bit more. We have a really large garden that is now empty down the hill in our sloped yard. Very soon the asparagus tips will start shooting out from the ground on the right side of the garden, just outside the wooden boarders but inside the fence where we planted them several years ago. The strawberries will soon follow. Every year those crazy strawberries try to invade the neighboring soil in the garden after a few weeks above ground, but each year we gently pull back the little green pointers that latch quite firmly into the dirt.

In the summertime the garden is brimming with all types of crops – kale, lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, beets, squash, eggplant, peppers, green beans, herbs like basil, parsley, oregano, mint…. and more. Each year we try our hand at a few new seeds. One of the finer ways that I feel in touch with nature is preparing meals with ingredients that came from our garden.

There is a point every year where the yield is almost too much to keep up with. Especially the kale, spinach and lettuce. Almost daily I take a trip down the hill to pick the greens. Carefully cutting the leaves back to main stem keeps the greens producing all season, but it’s quite a time consuming task. The bugs are wild at that time of year. At least half of the time I will forget to slather on some bug repellent and get completely mobbed by whatever is out there. Often the sun is so hot that by the time I finish cutting back the greens, the ones I started to cut begin to wilt. Avoiding that wilt requires several trips back into the air-conditioned house where they will stay fresh until I have a chance to clean them. Getting back into the house is tricky business because my sandals, legs and behind are muddy, and I need to trek up the hill in the scorching sun. The trip doesn’t stop up the hill, I still need to climb steep steps of the deck. It really isn’t too far, but by the time I reach the back door I’m often panting from the exertion. A cool wave of cold air will hit me when I open the door to go in. Unlike the frigid air this morning when I opened the door (which felt like an unpleasant shock but very natural); the air-conditioned air in the summer feels pleasant, yet completely unnatural. I have to take off my shoes so as to not drag mud into the house. I need to almost creep into the house and try not to touch anything or shake the crops too much, as this will create all kinds of dirt and mess. After several trips to the garden to avoid wilting, it’s another several minutes to sometimes hours of processing the greens. They need to be soaked several for rounds, then spun and bagged. There is always more than we can ever eat; so our neighbors, co-workers and friends often become the unwilling, yet very thankful recipients of our labor.

I take a step back from the railing overlooking the hill. The deck feels cold and frigid under my bare feet with every step I take. As long as I don’t move, my feet seem to begin to warm up the peeling wood beneath them. My next thought wanders to the peeling wood. We need to paint it again. It needs to be painted or touched up annually, notwithstanding the promises on the labels of every deck paint we’ve ever tried with pictures of freshly painted decks that promise a 5-year guarantee. That is a chore to add to the to do list. As will be the weekly hassle of weeding in addition to the more than weekly imposition of mowing the lawn, weed wacking, cleaning up the mulch that looks plain awful after the lawn clippings or dog diggings. Ugh, not to mention the constant sweeping of the decks, walkway and sidewalk in front of our home. As I look around the yard my heart starts to flutter in anguish this time thinking about how much work the summer is. Why am I looking forward to it? The winter seems nice and simple as the upkeep of the home is only fractions of what the summer warrants when you have a large lawn and garden. I rather enjoy coming home in the dark at four in the afternoon, changing into comfy clothes and parking on the sofa with a good book by the fire for the evening. It feels wrong at this time of year at 6:45 pm to not be fully dressed. While the sun might be shining, it’s way to cold to enjoy the outdoors.

At the moment I’m cold and I have nothing on except my flimsy pajama pants and my daughter’s college sweatshirt, I make the crazy decision to walk down the steep stairs of the deck to take a look around the yard. There is the fire pit in the grass and Adirondack chairs that are sitting under the deck waiting their time to come out for the summer. We have a swing under the deck with an orange cushion and two pillows that is great for summer reading, but also a prime spot to be bitten by mosquitos. I start to walk around the house up the hill and remember how steep this is. I am reminded of the flower bed on the side of the house that is a whole lot of work to keep up as well. My heart starts to pound now as I am exerting energy up this little hill while my lungs are taking in the frigid cold. As I round the flower bed and step into my driveway I see the crocus’ that came up a few weeks ago in full bloom. They are the first of the flowers to come up. Their little green shoots are often seen in late February. Just a quick look at them makes my heart slow down just a little.

As I come up the walkway I see more crocus’ on the flowerbed to the other side of the house. They too are in full bloom. And right next to them are daffodils that are about to burst forth. Their yellow petals are closed, but any day now they will open up to their full beauty.

I smile internally. I love the flowers in the summer. I love to prune them back, clean up the mess around them, and bring many of them into the house. All summer we have fresh flowers around the house. Every single time I look at them I am awed by the sense of their beauty. It is one of my favorite things about summer. As is having the windows open at night. As are the fresh fruit pies I make, the salads we often eat, the fresh tomatoes… oh my.

All seasons are beautiful by their own right. When the days start to become shorter and the mornings in late August and early September chillier, I begin to dread the winter. I can’t conceive how it could be dark in the morning or in the evening. I can’t imagine not sitting out on the deck for meals and reading in the evenings by the light of tikki torches and sound of crickets. But as the days do start to shorten I thoroughly enjoy the colors of the trees, the browning of the flower beds and garden, and pulling out the sweaters and fuzzy boots. While there is a certain satisfaction and connection to nature from caring for the outside for several hours and then enjoying the view with a cool beverage, there is also a certain contentment with putting away the garden tools and lawn furniture for the winter and turning inwards.

I walk back into my home through the front door and feel the unnatural warm blast of air hit me while I wipe the dirt from my feet on the doormat, closing out the frigid morning behind me. I’m content. Nature is beautiful and I’m feeling completely grateful.

via Daily Prompt: Frigid

DailyPrompt for Frigid