Thursday, April 10, 2014

4/11/14—Riding With The Top Off

It's spring and I have a tiny little blue convertible. 

That could actually be my post for the day. Most of you have probably already envisioned yourself scooting off into the sunset based on that one sentence alone. But there's more to the story.

I bought my Honda del Sol 21 years ago when I was 30. In debating the purchase of my two-seater, I remember thinking, "this may be my last chance to own a horribly impractical car." So I bought it. And I don't think any single purchase in my life has brought me as much joy as that horribly impractical two-seater.

Over the years I've shared a lot of memories with this car. I like to use it to pick up Christmas trees, in part to see the look on the tree guys' faces, but also because it's good at hauling trees. It's been "totaled" a couple of times. A fender bender is enough to total it these days. The last time the guy was going to put a junk title on it, but I cried and told him it wasn't junk. So it still has a clear title. :D I no longer drive it on the highway anymore, though. SUVs are so big that it's hard to see my car. I mean, the car comes to maybe the middle of my torso. It's very low to the ground. Which makes 60mph feel like 80mph. Which is kind of fun. 

It has only failed to start on the first try twice in its lifetime. Both were because of dead batteries. See, I only drive it once a month or so. I had to get another car 10 years ago because the del Sol was no longer big enough for my family. Prior to that my big dog, Passion would sit in the passenger seat and people would laugh and stare because she looked so human with her straight back and forward gaze. Like one man got out of his car at a stoplight to say, "I couldn't tell if she was a dog or a really ugly human." Back then, she went everywhere with me.

Anyway, when I added Kizzie to my family, I needed a new car. That's the car I drive most. None of my current dogs like riding in the del Sol, so it's just a solo car now. It's not even good for tooling around in with friends because it's so cramped in there. Besides, the radio hasn't worked for years. And with the weather this past winter, it never left the driveway. It doesn't do well in snow. So the battery died. And I got it jumped yesterday. And on a beautiful spring day I was forced to drive around in it along the river to charge the battery. Poor me. :)

My little del Sol is small, a hazard to drive, crunches easily, none of my dogs will ride in it, it can't drive in snow, it's a little rusty and, frankly, it frequently shakes at higher speeds. It's completely impractical. I'm sorry to say, I probably wouldn't buy it today. But I'm so glad I have it. 

It reminds me that not all decisions have to be made with the head or with the future in mind. And that a "smart" purchase isn't always measured in things like safety ratings or hauling capacity. It can sometimes be measured by how many beats your heart skips when you get behind the wheel and how broad your smile is when you think of it. She only has 94K on her. She runs like a top and always has. I might have her another 20 years. She's one of the smartest decisions I've ever made.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

4/9/14—Exploring the Heart of Equanimity

Today's post is a guest post from Sparky and Goddess....


Equanimity is a quality often discussed in a spiritual or philosophical context, but here Goddess and Sparky explore equanimity as a characteristic that can inform and transform perspectives around life and love!  

Sparky:  “Equanimity isn’t a quality we bring up or point out often.  We don’t hear someone say, “Wow… Did you notice how equanimous he or she was being tonight…”

Goddess:  “It’s defined here online as mental or emotional stability or composure, especially under tension or strain.  calmness, equilibrium.    that’s balance…   

synonyms are;  serenity, self-possession, aplomb, calmness of mind or temper - composure.  antonyms include;  panic, disquiet, discomposure, agitation.  those can sure throw a relationship out of whack!”

Sparky:  “Yeah they can.
To me, equanimity arises from love.  When we’re being equanimous, we’re open and we accept circumstances, events, people equally, without judging.  You’re not making something, or someone right or wrong.  You’re actually looking at something as it is, and you’re looking at others as they are.  It allows for the space of the actual experience instead of focusing on your mental data about it…  When you’re not crowding or covering up an experience with information or judgements, you’re more available to experience it.  Without equanimity, the habits of our brain activity tend to cover up the actual experience with accessing, connecting and making right or wrong/ good or bad of it.”  

Goddess:  “the first thing i’m feeling into is that non-equanimity is part of the ancient, conditioned pattern that is rooted in our tribal thinking which says that everything has to be a certain way and that we have to be right. and we are still tribal creatures in our current day relationships in many ways. we have to try to control by knowing how everything is going to go.  and we have to stick to those patterns because they’re going to keep us safe.  it perpetuates an identity myth - and this identity manifests by doing things a certain way.  we do things a certain way and if anything upsets the apple cart, it can threaten the tribe.  of course, it’s also about efficiency - attempting to streamline the activities in your life which also enforces predictability.  people like predictability.”   

Sparky:  “Yes, and that points to the culture which can be great if it’s being practiced consciously, but it can also be limiting when it becomes merely a habit - a stored mental pattern.  That pattern doesn’t really honor the culture at all.  As within the tribal identity you referred to, the habit is reinforced in a by-product of the culture that’s exhibited when we react in a certain, preconditioned way to things.  That by-product defaults straight to the good/bad, right/wrong paradigm.  That’s what gets all the energy and then the result limits any actual experience.  By introducing equanimity, we allow for more clarity, creativity and adaptability… We live more fully and are more open to the life experience!”

Goddess:  “.........yes, instead of responding in a pre-programmed way..”

“another thing i have experienced as non-equanimous, ha - that sounds funny...are people who fly off the handle at any kind of disruption or any kind of change or any kind of interference in the environment or in the ambience.  it becomes all about them and their judgments and their reactions to it.  a barking dog, heavy traffic or some other experience gets framed around them and their role or reaction to it.  there’s a lot of control going on in that.  we’ve all been around those people who, when they fly off the handle, everyone jumps and scrambles to make it better for that person.”

Sparky:  “Oh yeah… A few are coming to mind right now!  

But, back to equanimity…  When we practice it, it takes us out of our heads to access “the correct” conditioned response and brings us into the   experience of the present moment.  It actually requires presence, which opens up everything.  By demanding presence, equanimity allows authentic connections.  We become more available, more spontaneous.  Creativity and clarity are available for the relationship since we’re now not stuck in our heads.  We can be consciously engaged and using thought, instead of living through thought via some limited, mental pattern…”  

Goddess:  “that limiting of creativity in consciousness, which could manifest in creativity in the 3D through writing or art or building, gets freed up.  creativity is there for exploration, expansion… the way i’m thinking about it, it’s the opposite of limiting yourself.  those limiting behaviors are very limiting in relationships, too.  when you fall into the ‘this is the way it should be’ pattern, you’re desperately displaying tribal behavior in an attempt to keep your tribe (or any relationship) together, around you.“

Sparky:  “Maybe well intended, maybe not, but it’s usually controlling…”  

Goddess:  “those tribal calls are all around us, even the calls of glory, the warrior.  recently while watching Obama give medals of honor to war heroes on the news, I thought, ‘why are we still honoring people who kill people?…….doesn’t anybody get it?’   the feats of those men were extraordinary - displays of the human capacity for bravery, courage, loyalty and perseverance… in so many powerful ways.  but we’re talking about humans killing other humans!  feels like the Twilight Zone.  those people that these men are killing have the same hearts, the same minds, the same sentience and the same loyalty and bravery, and they want to protect their people too.  can’t we all see this?  the act of honoring ‘people killing people’ reinforces people killing people.  this just reminded me of how tribal we still are.  but our consciousness has superseded the need to be tribal.  yes, there will continue to be terrorist groups and yes, there are still 7 billion people on this planet so there is still going to be a huge number of people who are gonna continue to be tribal and wreak death and destruction.  but from the White House, one of the power centers of our species - can we set a tone to change the tide?  i’m bringing this up because it’s rooted in that non-equanimous behavior - it’s all part of the same syndrome.  bringing that into relationships - we’re still trying to be tribal within our coupling, to do whatever it takes to hang onto each other, to gain a superficial sense of security, loyalty…”

Sparky:  “One of the residual effects of practicing equanimity in relationships is that it helps keep us from getting entangled in reactive patterns in the first place.  When equanimity is your default mode, the patterns or traps stand out and become more visible for you.  You’re clearer, so the slippery exchanges tend to stand out.  When you can resist the pull of a negative engagement, you don’t engage it and give away your control, your power.”

Goddess:  “that’s why i feel control issues in these situations, because in many relationships we see lots of behaviors that are power grabs, that are manipulative.  it can be quite obvious and aggressive, not necessarily physically aggressive, but aggressive in certain ways.  i don’t always perceive that aggressiveness the same way that other people perceive aggression.  when i’m faced with it, i often give compassion, peace, and softness in response.  some people hate me for that, because they can’t control me.  some relationships are defined by that controlling dynamic.  and the conflicts have a lot to do with those attempts to control.”

Sparky:  “It has everything to do with control.  And it’s often quite cunning and subtle… it sneaks in usually when we’re in auto-pilot, not present.  But in the error of attempting to control someone, we ultimately create a conflict.  It can be the source of so much ongoing suffering.  And not just for the couple, but for children, relatives and others.  It’s a contagion, that if you engage it - whether positively or negatively, you’re caught in it.  Engaging in a conflict is engaging in a conflict, period.  The conflict cycle has a life of it’s own.  It’s engaged whenever our attention is on it.  The cycles exists through the energy of our attention.  When you don’t engage the cycle - you don’t feed it anymore.

And getting to that understanding is very empowering!  It’s clear that you’re not trying to control by taking sides or by producing any particular outcome.  You’re simply choosing for you, while others get to choose for themselves.  

That’s what you do… what you’ve done.  You don’t engage in the conflict! You stay present and you choose not to engage... Period.  That’s powerful, and it’s beautiful!”

Goddess:  “why, thank you!  i don’t know that i could ever see where any fruitfulness could come from engaging.  you’re not going to ever be able to get to a balanced outcome.  

but its not that i can’t be triggered, you’ve seen me be triggered.  and there could be times when being triggered highlights something, where a couple needs to bring out some kind of issue that isn’t coming out in any other way.  like when there are things that need to be said and so you’re yelling to say those things that you want to get out and can’t seem to do it in any other way.”

Sparky:  “Then equanimity can be there for the other person, the one that isn’t yelling yet, to avoid the yelling engagement - the trap of the cycle that’s beginning to form.  This allows the other to look deeper and to try to find out more.  Or even to disengage completely, for a while and revisit the issue in a fresh discussion.”

Goddess:  “i know that when that kind of conflict comes up, i go into a completely different mode now.  i don’t engage it… i can’t remember the last time i did.  you can’t really have a good outcome.  i usually become compassionate, and i do actually feel compassionate because if somebody is still engaging in that, well it’s a pretty sad place to be engaging from.       

who has triggered you in your life?”  

Sparky:  “Well, I can’t really name or blame it on anyone particular, though a few do come mind, but it’s really about me.  I’m triggered, off and on at different times and hopefully, I’m more often aware of it than not.  And now, just the awareness itself is often enough to stop the trigger and the process.  It’s become a practice, just to notice.  

For instance, I might be lost in thought and make a client wrong because they’re calling when I have something else going on.  That becomes a trigger, but noticing it is important - otherwise I might keep making them wrong.  Noticing it helps clear it.  Or maybe I’m thinking its “bad” weather - I might make the weather wrong, ”more snow is the last thing I need!”  Ha!  Dude, wake up!  Sure, I still go into autopilot sometimes, but I’m aware of it most of the time and once you become aware of it, you’re free to choose.  I’ve never found a compelling reason to hang onto those thoughts - it’s just not where the fun is.”

Goddess:  “i was sitting here thinking about whether love is inherently embedded in equanimity, or is equanimity inherently embedded in love?   or are they two different things?   what comes first, meaning which is the root of which?”

Sparky:  “I don’t know, but I feel that love is primary and equanimity arises from love.  Its part of the nature of love.  The true sentiment behind the false statement that “love is blind”, actually resides in that thing that we’re calling equanimity. It’s part of love, to let go of that which is not adding to love.  It’s one of love’s conditions, in other words.  We see it in the manifest and we call it blindness because we begin to put our attention on, not what we’re choosing, but what’s choosing us.  The irritant, the inconvenience, the problem… Then we start to see more and more of that.  Not because of any choice that we’ve made, but because of other conditions, or wanting some outcome.  And we begin to think about it and then we begin to experience conflicts arising from the thoughts.  The same person that was so magnificent a year ago… where’d that person go?  We’re now setting conditions, making requirements and living more through thought than through the present experience.  That’s the primary error which we seem to make over and over again.  And we wind up on a psychiatrist’s couch and say that ‘I keep on somehow doing the same thing over and over.’  People are not distinguishing between when they were in the experience of experiencing, versus trying to “manage” the experience and being taken over by their thoughts about it.”

Goddess:  “you said earlier that this is very tied to allowing… to non-judgmental, and acceptance.  i guess equanimity is the result…..the state that results from those beliefs and actions.  

until you brought this up, in regards to relationships, i never would have thought about equanimity.  it was just a natural reaction or response, i guess.  it was not a conscious choice as much as just a natural way of being, until it came up as a topic.  so, here are some reflections I have on it now:

equanimity feels allowing, compassionate and accepting.  I get a lot of depth around the feeling of acceptance through it.  I can learn a lot more about a person through allowing, rather than through making assumptions based on my own ego’s fears.

ultimately, if you want to be in a relationship with a person, you will want to know what’s really going on with them.  that’s what I would want to know……...that from a state of equanimity, i’m moving forward from a foundation of truth.  then i’m more in the know, because i’m not based in delusions or  accusations or putting too much credence in their mood or an outburst, because that’s not a true picture either.  

i’m more balanced and i can make better decisions about the relationship.  it keeps me from being triggered, which could wind up being hurtful and i never want to hurt anybody, at anytime, for any reason.  

being in equanimity, i’m not judging myself or others, and i feel good about myself. i can be who i am and the other can be who they are.  when no one is being judged, you’re free to live your truth, you don’t have to hide it and walk on eggshells.  and you can be direct without being threatening.  when someone is trying to handle me i feel manipulated and disempowered.

and when one person is being triggered, the other can model the calm of equanimity.  they can be kind and loving and connect with what’s truly going on.  and they can then move forward in the days, months and years ahead without all the heavy, controlling baggage.  in the end, they can feel much more love between them.  a love that is way more true than one that is disguised or disingenuous.”

Sparky:  “Wow… That’s just so right on.  So beautifully put.

Okay, so here are a few closing thoughts:  Psychologists have identified a human need; a deep, primal need that is linked to our species survival.  It’s the need to feel a sense of belonging.  It may be the most disguised, but the most essential emotional need that we share.  

Through equanimity, we all belong.  When we interact, we’re not connecting and communicating through a maze of superficial actions and reactions, we’re connecting directly with the essence of the other person.  We’re engaging the parts that unite us, rather than those that divide us.  We feel seen, heard, connected and loved.

To access equanimity, we start by having our attention in the present moment.  By doing so, the practice of equanimity allows the experience that we call love, to shine through us.  Relationships thrive in this love!

Once equanimity is experienced……..once you really get it, then nothing else will do!”

Sunday, April 6, 2014

4/7/14—Feeling Like Your Old Self

Not that long ago, I spoke about some new medications I had to take. And I was reading up on the thyroid medication on a website and it said, "within a couple of weeks, you should start to feel like your old self again." 

Reading this brought up so much emotion, it made me cry. It suddenly hit me how long it had been since I "felt like my old self".... a self that could concentrate on things, wasn't ruled by hormonal fluctuations and didn't have to sleep all the time. 

When you're overweight and menopausal, good luck telling a doctor that you feel foggy, can't seem to lose weight and are exhausted all the time. They'll diagnose you as overweight and menopausal. And while I've been suspecting thyroid issues for years, I've never tested out of the broad scope considered normal until now. And guess what? Now I have. And now that I'm on the medication, I'm finally starting to feel like my old self again. So one lesson I've learned recently is that you should listen to your friends who say you have to advocate for your own health. Doctors make up their minds about things and if you feel deeply inside that it's something else, you need to get another opinion. 

But that's just an aside. What I'm really here to talk about today is "your old self." Sometimes your old self slips away so gradually that you just end up living with a new self thinking, "what has happened to me?" Maybe this is because of depression. Or too many demands placed on your life. Or from surrounding yourself with the wrong people. Or from some engrossing life event. Or a chemical imbalance, like with thyroid disease. 

In this case, your "old self" is a beacon of hope that you may one day feel good again and that whatever has been dogging you for months or years will come to an end. In other cases, we WANT our old selves to end...we want to replace the undesirable old self with a shiny new one. Sometimes it's a normal function of growth. But other times it's something we're running away from, are ashamed of or want to put in the past. So we consciously abandon or even deny our old selves. 

A wise and wonderful friend of mine recently changed her name—not to deny her old self, but to recapture it. I've always known her by her nickname, but she has a longer name she hasn't gone by since she was young. She told me that when she was a child, she felt ugly, depressed, cowardly, self-conscious and unlovable. She identified those feelings with her given name. And when she got older, she coined a nickname for herself that she thought was perky, upbeat, cute and popular. She denied that other girl, and became a new one. 

Recently this woman went through some life-threatening health issues. As part of her recovery, she changed her diet and she changed her name. She is choosing to reclaim her old self and embrace it. 

When we deny parts of ourselves, we can create illness...just as illness can cause us to lose parts of ourselves. We often forget to acknowledge why or how that old self served us. For example, a part of myself that I like to shove aside was very self conscious and obsessed with how she looked. She wore lots of makeup and always looked great. But inside she was missing the substance I have in my life now. So I cast her aside. 

And, frankly, I drifted to the opposite side of the spectrum. I could use to care more about what I look like these days. That woman served a purpose for me then, to show me that despite all the years of feeling unattractive and unlovable as a child, being pretty wasn't the answer either. It felt just as empty. So I cast her aside and eventually learned where my true value lay. But I also threw out the baby with the bathwater. I stopped caring so much about how I looked.

So maybe consider your old self this week. Have you lost a part of yourself that you want back? Have you denied a part of yourself and, perhaps, denied the purpose that self served? Is it time to reclaim or reintegrate a part of yourself long set aside? If you believe everything has a purpose, then there's no such thing as wasted time or effort. As we seek to know ourselves better, we can only go so far if we deny who we are or were. Your old self is just as much your true self (possibly even more so) as who you are now. All the parts complete the picture of you. 

This Wednesday there will be a guest blog from our guest bloggers, Sparky and Goddess, on equanimity. I'll be back for the one you'll on Thursday night or Friday.