Tag Archives: awareness

When Coffee is not just “Coffee.” Awareness, Attachments, Anxiety.

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So I’m about 10 days into experiencing this clean eating / diet detox and I have to say that for me, it’s not about the food. I don’t have attachments to food; blessedly, I’ve never been an emotional eater, I actually think I have a good relationship with food (“Hello sandwich, how are you today? I will eat you when I’m hungry…”), but I have determined, that what I do have, is an attachment to tradition; an attachment to attachments.

Because I’m not a big coffee drinker (as so many writers are — I simply can’t do it: my body / GI can not handle the huge thrust of caffeine, so I have one serving a day), coffee was only a loss to me in terms of my inability to have something warm and served in a cute vessel as I walked my son to school. Lots of moms and dads walk along the path to school with their kiddos holding an open mug or a travel mug or a thing as they saunter through the dappled sunlight or amidst the drizzle of these gorgeous and cool autumn mornings. I wanted to be one of those people; they looked so together, as though they’d just stepped out of a JCrew catalog or in their fitness wear, enroute to or just from the gym, but with their coffee in hand. (Hell, I could be completely wrong: maybe it’s vodka.)

So I morphed myself into being one of those people. Even though it was occasionally inconvenient: you can’t always hold a dog leash and a kiddo’s hand and a cup of something. So I found myself on days when the boys wanted to bring a dog vacillating between my cute mug of weak-ish coffee or Irish Breakfast tea and a leash, or holding a hand. When I wanted to be a be-hooded cute coffee mom and we were running late (which is often), the coffee would stay home and so began the understanding that it was more about being SEEN with the coffee, and somehow fitting in with the other moms, than actually enjoying the coffee.

Another thought that comes to mind is the obvious: if I choose to walk with the coffee, then I’m rejecting something else. Never has one of my sons asked me to leave the coffee at home to hold his hand. Not once. So what am I rejecting? Possibly my sense of just being ok with being plain old young me.

So when the detox started, I shifted gears: I put my detox tea (some horrid unique combination of lemon poison, dandelion venom, toxic licorice, and thistle milk in the vessel and the hell with it: I added some organic raw honey to sweeten the deal) in my cute vessel and guess what? I didn’t feel at all as though I was fitting in. Even though no one knew what was in my mug, and no one dared ask (because we all assume we’re coffee lemmings) I didn’t feel “cool” anymore. I’d’ve rather had no mug than carry a mug loaded with a potion which was displeasing to me. So instead, now I make my detox tea and slam it down when it reaches room temperature to just get it over with. Some attitude, I know. Then I look for a bathroom.

I don’t know what any of that means — the lack of the coolness, hipster, fitter-inner. I know that it came with some small relief upon later examination though, because I haven’t really fully enjoyed a cup of high-test coffee knowing what the caffeine does to my system. It was always a guilty pleasure. I make jokes about “coffee first” a lot; but mostly it’s for affect, and so I see that I’m being inauthentic when I say things like that because I simply can’t drink as much as others seem to be able to. It’s like the “she can’t hold her liquor” thing too … I can’t. Two drinks and I’m very comfortable — but not always: if I’m on edge in prep for an anxious moment (say expecting a weirdo to show any moment at a social event), the alcohol simply doesn’t take effect and so then, what’s the point of any of it other than a crutch? So this begs the question: what’s the point of any crutch?

A lot of this is deep, I get that. If you read my most recent post, it was my birthday and I was suffering with major headaches from the diet detox. All my friends and family who called and texted and emailed me throughout the day said to “take the Advil. It’s your birthday. You’re going to a rock concert and you’re gonna have the time of your life tonight. What’s up with the headache — ease your pain!” So, yes, against the advice / suggestion of the detox manager, I heard my older brilliant brother (as opposed to my equally brilliant younger brother): “if the technology exists, why not avail yourself of it?” So I did reach eagerly and mightily for the Advil and it was such sweet relief, so subtle and kind, that I pondered: What the what am I doing to myself? Why must I suffer to improve? Is it really improvement if this vise-like, compressing, deeply painful headache that has lasted almost 7 days and only meagerly subsides upon my laying down, makes me I wish I weren’t here?

….I know….

I’m a yoga teacher and practitioner of almost 16 years. I know deep breathing. I know staying in the moment. I can get you to relax on a mat in less than five minutes and have you hovering in the twilight, almost-all-the-way-asleep but still conscious and have you listen to the sound of my voice. But only if you’re willing… I simply couldn’t breathe / legs-up-the-wall / lavender oil / uttanasana these headaches away. Because the headaches were Other Than. The headaches were about my relationship with the detox when I’m already a mindful person, in very good health and already extended as a mom and wife and person.

So I am spinning this on its lactose, gluten, glucose and starch -laden head: we don’t need to suffer. We really don’t. These things, these GOOD things in our lives needn’t always be painful. Because the pain creates anxiety. Because I find that I already eat pretty well, that I have an occasional cheeseburger blanketed in a gorgeous square of sharp New York cheddar (sorry) I can tell you RIGHT NOW that my anxiety is reduced tenfold because I decided to listen to my Spirit last week. I heard her Loud and Clear: you needn’t suffer; this is an elective experience and suffering is always elective. True dat, but also pretty harsh. But back to true dat: it is. Suffering is a choice. We have a choice. The choice to breathe deeply, quiet our minds, close our eyes, feel the slow, soft and steady inhalation fill our chests and the calm, gentle and loose exhalation lower our ribs and chest quietly, gorgeously and so so so lovingly or become enchained slaves to the thoughts and fears and anxieties which rip through our psyches and tear holes in our spirits and send us on a panic spree about things that may or may not happen (well, something’s always gonna happen…) with and without our tender, evanescent influence … the choice is ours.

So yes. The choice is ours. Sorry. It’s like listening to music: you can crank up the Iron Maiden (which has its moments, I’m sure) and flood your head with all the synchronicity of what’s coming out of the speakers or you can switch to Jimi Hendrix, who has high energy, but more control and technique and simply get lost in his jam and not feel quite so disoriented upon the end. Or you can just listen to the clock tick and the birds sing and the refrigerator switch on and off as it cycles robotically through its existence.

The key for me is this: don’t let the shit that gets in your head own you.

For starters: I subscribe to the Daily Om — I highly recommend it. Read it.

The other day, one of the Oms was about awareness and fully experiencing that which we see. If I hadn’t started my day reading it, I wouldn’t have taken a moment to fully and truly see the man in the weighted-down minivan with the rooftop storage box pull into the public free parking lot. I would’ve missed his van barely squeak beneath the clearance bar and see the tailpipe scrape along the lip of the driveway. Then I wouldn’t have seen his furtive preparations to reverse his van into a parking space; his reverse lights didn’t work and so I had to wait, which was fine because I got a glimpse of his face which was so worry worn, so heavy and twisted with ennui, emotion and anxiety; each crease its own decades-long story. His hair, it was short but chunky and blonde, like a beachcomber’s, and his skin was leathery as though he’d lived outdoors all his life. The interior of his van was covered with all manner of life: wrappers, newspapers, coffee cups, magazines, a flip flop, stuffed animals… The windows of the van were tinted, but I could make the outlines of mounds of objects round and small and square and large. A battery-powered radio was wedged between the cracked windshield and a haphazard stack of periodicals. Here I witnessed: either a genius with serious hoarding issues, a lost soul with nowhere to go but the library on a sunny day, a criminal perhaps?, or just another guy whose emotional state is literally on the fringe. I would say he looked as though he were about 48 years old.

God has exposed me to two people in the last week who I am convinced were placed before me to keep my eyes open and my mind more open-er. That man in the van and a woman at Target who reminded me so much of my mother in her younger years that I find myself a bit dazzled by the timing of it all.

The woman was so peculiar to me. Twenty years ago I might’ve felt harshly toward her. She was wearing saggy cotton, faded black and lived-in pants, and a loose zippered off-white hoody. Her sneakers were simple Keds (Mom wouldn’t dare wear Keds). The cuffs of the sleeves were stained, as though they’d dipped into a dirty sink to wash coffee or tea or broth out of a pan or mug and I noticed that her hands were shaking a little; it was very subtle — almost like they were vibrating. Her hair was loose, shoulder length, black-brown with scant silver strands peeking out and it was oily near the scalp. I thought maybe she was out and about after feeling unwell for a few days. From her shopping basket she placed on the belt: nine cans of Campbell’s Hungry Man soups in all varieties, all with clearance price stickers on them. A ceramic table lamp, as though for a child’s room. It was white with lavender stripes and polka dots on it. The shade was inverted for storage and it was white with matching lavender velvet piping along the top and the bottom of the shade. She also gingerly took out of the top part of the cart, where little kids like to sit, a clearance-marked / on-sale pleather rust-toned backpack purse (which made me want to find out where it was because it was sort of cute but seemingly too large for my taste) which she examined closely one last time before she released it to the cashier. Then it came time to pay. Coupons. Lots of coupons (Mom couldn’t be bothered with coupons) but it was the way she paid. Her hands were more animated but deliberate in their stops and starts. The shaking was easier to see. She passed the coupons to the cashier and reached for her credit card which she then ran through the console. Her head was lurching forward, protectively in an almost vulture-like posture and she stared at the monitor as her tally ran up and then down with the aid of the coupons. Her only words, “I wish I had that Target card for the 5% off…” and then a gentle resigning laugh. She could be wealthy beyond all compare and still wanting the sale price. Or she could be a tangle of anxiety, OCD, doubt and fear. Judging by her pale, soft skin and the few gray hairs she had, I’d say she was likely 35.

I saw them. Like “Avatar” I see you -saw them. I saw them with my heart and my soul. They both those people exhibited a sense of loss, anxiety and woe to me that I could feel reverberate off them. I found myself breathing slower, more mindfully in their presence, simply to do what I could — consciously or not — to lower the vibration in the space I shared with them probably because they evoked such memories in me that I had to do what I could to calm myself down. I silently offered them both peace with each breath and have thought of them each since although the weight of their images fade with each day.

So after all these years of yoga, it’s impossible for me to not See people or feel them. I could revert back to my old ways: being hard, not caring and not getting involved, even on a witness level, but that’s false. I realize I have to be careful to not feel and see so much, and so that’s where the awareness of the awareness comes in.  So it’s that moment for me: taking myself out of my sense of expectations and attachments which enables me to fully live and fully release. Today in yoga, the quote from a book I read was this: “The hardest asana is letting go.” And so I realize, that even with all that compassion, I have to let it go or I’ll go down too.

What can you let go of today to help you be more present and to know that everything is happening –with and without you– as it should?

Thank you.

30 Days of Jung — Day 20: #Mistakes #Awareness #Psychology #Growth

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I like this quote very much. It reminds me of the wonderful thoughts via A. A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh, “a bear of very little brain.” That bear of little brain might be a bear of little brain, but he tells us a lot about ourselves if we let him.

Welcome to Day 20 of “30 Days of Jung,” my series, wherein (soon, I will start repeating myself, like now) I take a famous quote of Carl G. Jung‘s and try to make sense or refute or invert or disembowel it or where I turn into a heaping pile of mush because of it in 1,000 words or less.

If you don’t know who Jung is, he formulated the theories of introverted and extroverted personalities, the stages of individuation, the basis of the “Meyers-Briggs” personality (INFJ / ESFJ, etc.) tests. He’s the “father” of modern-day psychoanalysis. In short, he’s a badass. But he’s dead, so he can’t be with us today.

Here is today’s:

“Mistakes are, after all, the foundations of truth, and if a man does not know what a thing is, it is at least an increase in knowledge if he knows what it is not.”
― C.G. Jung

So true. And it’s the love of or the allowance of mistakes that has helped get many of us to where we are.

I go back to my mispronunciation of “Goethe” and “Jung” when I was learning these highfalutin names. I go back to my days as a young editor when I said “for all intensive purposes” and meant it with all earnestness until I was corrected, a little abruptly but that’s the business of being or trying to be a writer and an editor, with “for all intents and purposes.”

The issue for me is to be sure to try not to make those mistakes again. Especially in matters of human relations. There’s a great book I read a while ago called The Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz and while I am not always conscious of my reactivity and my tone despite my awareness at times of having a very harsh delivery, that book has been very helpful.

Mistakes are inevitable, hoping (to borrow from Jung above) that they are not inevitable is a mistake.

Does our knowing what something is or is not prevent others from making that same mistake? Not really. I know that my parents said lots of things to me that I ignored. I know that I say lots of things to my kids that they ignore. We need to learn things for ourselves. What if one of us takes our time and learns from all the other mistakes and gets it right? Will we still make mistakes? Gosh, I hope so.

This quote is simple and lovely and it also reminds me of John Krakauer’s Into the Wild where it was just the difference between the leaves on a berry plant that created a horrible mistake. I was also talking to a friend the other day about mushrooms. He largely knows which ones are poisonous and which ones are edible and he’s created some amazingly delightful soups and sauces and main dishes with his good sense and good fortune. He also knows first-hand the results of picking the wrong mushrooms.

Is it a porcupine or a hedgehog? Pick it up and find out.

I bought a pair of Vibram five-fingers a few years ago. I was so excited by the concept of “barefoot” running or in the case of the Vibrams “minimalist” running that I almost blew out my calves one day while running close to three miles in them. Did I know I was supposed to gradually build to more forefoot strikes? Yes. Did I build in the prescribed fashion? Mmmmmmmmnot exactly. I did some… but I thought I was different, I thought I could handle it. I was in excellent shape. I was disconnected from the larger universal truth: there is no such thing as “different.”

Well, your heart and lungs and hips and thighs can be in excellent shape and your calves might be in pretty good shape as well, but there’s no preparing yourself for the utter pain and OMAIGAAAD WHAT HAVE I DONE?! pain of hitting the second mile (once you’ve turned back) and being reduced from hubris-inspired sprinter runner forefoot striker to hunched over, pain-addled barely walking near-blown-out calves idiot. At about two and a half miles, I could barely function. Not only was there the physical pain to deal with, there was the psychological damage I’d done to myself.

I had about another 3/10 of a mile to go and I considered crawling. There was no part of my foot that was OK for impact, no matter how softly I experienced it that could bear the weight of my ego any longer. So I sat for awhile, sweating, heaving, wincing and being generally unhappy and I stretched my calves a lot. About ten minutes later, I didn’t want to do that anymore, so I got up, braced myself and ran home and I didn’t just jog, I emptied my tank figuring that the less amount of time making impact with the ground and a quicker and longer stride would help get me home faster.

It worked and I took four 200mg ibuprofens every five hours for the next two days just to deal with the inflammation and the pain. While the pain was unbearable, after about four days it was a distant and clear memory but I was conditioned: I had learned what something was not. I never did it again. I gradually built and broke into my forefoot strikes and I am probably a better runner/jogger because of that experience.

I rear-ended a car by mistake when I was driving one time and I am extra cautious at that intersection now and am a better driver because of it. I am grateful I’ve not been in an accident in at least 10 years.

As I said, I make mistakes every day. I mistakenly guess that people want to do what I want to do. I mistakenly think that people see things the way I see them. I mistakenly say something I thought I was OK to say. I do it all the time. It’s not that I’m a Jerry Lewis character, it’s that I’m human. I have tried both: being careful not to say things, being careful not to make mistakes and then I’ve made mistakes by not saying things… it’s nuts.

So I go with what’s natural. I go with the prevailing winds; if it makes sense to add my thoughts or my experiences to the pot, then I go for it. If it doesn’t make sense, then I listen or try to learn from someone else’s mistakes.

One time my son who was making a pumpkin pie used salt instead of sugar. We learned real quick what the mistake was there. He got distracted, called away and lost his place in the recipe. He doesn’t do that anymore.

My mistakes have not been massive, life-changing or life-altering. They tend to be more of the singular experienced type of thing that seem to mostly affect me.

What about you? What mistakes have you made that have made you a better learner?

Thank you.