New Routines

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For a long time, my evening routine, such as it was, consisted of coming home exhausted, getting on the computer, and staying on it, even if I wasn’t doing anything at all, until I couldn’t keep my eyes open. At least when I’m working.

And when not working, even less than that. It would be a “good” night if I spent time exercising or cleaning or anything at all, really.

Lately, I find myself turning off the computer, putting on a new age station on Pandora and sitting on the porch as twilight turns to dark.

Sometimes, I simply sit.

Sometimes, I read – right now: You Are Here by Thich Naht Hanh.

Sometimes I write, either in my personal journal or working on The Desire Map or one of my other journaling/goal setting notebooks. A couple of times, I’ve taken my watercolors out there, too.

I think it started with the Mindfulness class I did at the VA Mental Health Clinic. I started meditating in silence, which I think I’ve mentioned was a little new to me. And I began to crave the quiet time.

And then Tuli came along.

She’s so different from Pumpkin.Image

She likes being outside (Pumpkin didn’t like open spaces).  But it’s dangerous around here, so I can’t really let her out to just explore.

As often as possible, I open up the sliding glass door to the porch and let her go out there.

Having the door open somehow makes me want to go out there more.

I’ve spent more time out there in the last month than I probably have in the 6 years I’ve lived here combined.

I keep wondering why I didn’t do this ages ago. It’s pleasant and relaxing. My allergies act up a little, but still, it’s nice.

Next step: work yoga into the routine, either in the mornings or evenings. I need more movement in my daily routines.

Pagan Blog Project: B is for Breath

So, yes, I’m really, really late with this post. 😛

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Apparently, it’s really hard to get into therapy in the mental health clinic at the VA’s mental health clinic these days. When I talked to my psychiatrist about it, he said that I should try to get into some of the groups that are available and use that as a way to get to know the therapists.

So, back in January, I joined an 8-week mindfulness class.

I was mostly thinking of it as a way to return to a regular meditation routine; I wasn’t really expecting to learn a whole lot. After all, I’ve been meditating in some form or other as long as I can remember.

I should have known better – everything is an opportunity to learn more.

First off – I find it amazingly wonderful that a conservative organization like the VA is doing mindfulness and meditation groups in their mental health clinic!

Most of my meditation experience has been using prompts, guided meditations, or music.

What made this different was that there was not a . . . FOCUS for the meditation that I was used to.

Except there is; there’s the breath.

Everything comes back to the breath.

The breath is the center.

The process is so simple as to be childish.

Just breathe, and pay attention to it.

People tend to think of meditation as making your mind blank and feel like they fail when their mind wanders all over the place. Quotes like the one below (often mis-attributed to Buddha) feed that mental image. So do movies and other parts of popular culture.

It may be stating the case too strongly to say that in meditation one seeks to gain nothing. For there is an increase in happiness and peace of mind. But when asked, “What have you gained from meditation?”, the answer would be: “It is not what I have gained that is important but rather what I have diminished, namely, greed, hatred, and delusion.” – Apparently NOT a Buddha quote, but from World Buddhism by the World Fellowship of Buddhists. 😛

This class acknowledged that your mind WILL wander – and actually the mind wandering and you corralling it back to a focal point *is* the process of meditation.

We were asked to commit to 5 minutes a day, with the idea that 5 minutes a day, most days, is more beneficial than longer periods less frequently.

During the class, I had all these things I wanted to write down and talk about and now I can’t think of most of them – isn’t that always the way?

Try it.

Set a timer. 5 minutes? 10? more? it’s up to you, but if you’re new to it, start with 5.

Sit comfortably, but so that your back is straight: a dining chair, office chair, cross-legged on the floor. The reason you want your back straight is to allow your lungs to fully expand. If you’re hunched over, you can’t fully breathe.

Close your eyes.

Start off by just paying attention to your breath. You don’t have to control it, just pay attention to it.

Your mind will tell you this is a stupid thing. Do it anyway.

You’ll start to think about stuff you need to buy at the store, things you need to do, people you need to talk to.

That’s ok, but when you notice it, come back to your breath.

It’s that simple – and that hard.

The class started out with 18 people, 3 of us women. One woman dropped out after only 2 or 3 sessions. Another woman only made it to about half the sessions. In the end, there were 12 of us.

During the course, some of the things we talked about were forgiveness and the fact that as you do this, as you gain experience with this, you might actually have some uncomfortable feelings, fears come up.

I was intrigued that a mental health clinic would be doing this, and so did a little research and found out Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy is totally a thing.

That means I need to research it more. I bought two books:

Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World
The Mindful Way Workbook: An 8-Week Program to Free Yourself from Depression and Emotional Distress

I’m still working through them so when I come up with insights, I’ll write more.

But if nothing else, remember to pay attention to your breath.

What direction now?

The last week has been rough for a couple/few reasons.

1. There was a heatwave for the last 7 days. I don’t do well in hot to begin with, and 105+ degrees (Fahrenheit) doesn’t help.
2. The air conditioning in my apartment is still broken. I’ve been having trouble with it for about a year and a half now. No one knows what is wrong. They’ve replaced everything except the lines. Tuesday they thought everything was fine, but it was over 85 degrees inside at 10pm. The expert can’t get out there until Friday (the 5th).
3. The brake lights on my car are doing this weird thing where one of them isn’t going out. So, I had a dead battery. I needed to replace the battery, but didn’t have the money and had to borrow that.
4. I’ve been staying at friends’ homes while waiting for the a/c expert.
5. All last weekend, I slept about 4-6 hours, broken sleep, not good sleep. Losing sleep is very bad for my mood state.

I feel disconnected from everything, even though I spent most of the day yesterday getting caught up on sleep. I thought I’d feel better after I slept, but I don’t.

I’m doing various things right now to bring in money, and even though there’s a lull right now, things will pick up a bit in August.

But my energy is scattered because I can’t concentrate on any of the things.

I’m trying to turn the blog into a business, and in some ways it’s starting to move. I’ve made a couple hundred dollars each month since I started doing the Tarot readings, a little more each month. My FB page now has just under 150 “likes”. On FB, people respond and we’ve gotten a few good conversations going. Those are good things. When I pay attention to it and post regularly, stuff happens.

I’ve been trying to think of what my next step with this business is.

If I want the blog and business to concentrate on the Tarot and Oracle card readings, the next step would be to start writing up a series of “how to” posts, and then eventually package them as an ebook or an online class.

Except. . . .

I started selling the readings so that I had something to sell, so I could get started right away. And I like doing them, and it’s going well. But I never intended for my blog and/or business to concentrate only on those things.

Whenever I start thinking about writing up training stuff, I just think. . . . There’s already so.fucking.much. out there. There are literally hundreds of books written on the topic, and I don’t know how to even count how many websites doing it.

I guess I feel like it’s not that difficult, like anyone can do it if they want to.

But is that true? Or is it just my mood state making me feel inadequate? After all, I’ve been reading on and off for about 25 years. Maybe there’s something in my head that could help people?

Just pick up a couple/few books and start practicing on people you know. Meditate on a new card every day. Keep a notebook and write up what comes up for you in the meditation. Practice, practice, practice. Make sure you read several books and get different perspectives. Maybe play with a little numerology or look into how the cards correspond with various aspects of the Kabbalah’s Tree of Life. . . .

I think part of me feels that if I start down that road, I won’t be able to change later, but as I write that sentence, I realize that is a silly fear – I’m in charge, I can always change direction or add to it.

So, I’m asking – Would any of my readers be interested in that?

I started writing up how I was learning a new oracle deck on FB in the “notes” section, but that didn’t garner any responses at all.

If you’re NOT interested in that, what would you be interested in?

Instructions on meditating, with things like email reminders to get you to take a few minutes to clear your head? Guided meditations?

More posts on how to get through hard times?

More posts on mental illness?

Feeling better about yourself?

Looking for some ideas here, if you’ve got anything, comment here or on the FB page.

Walking a labyrinth

Morse Park in Elk Grove has a stone labyrinth. I discovered this a couple of years ago when I went to a dog walk/run event with Mon a few years ago.

I’ve wanted to go back ever since, but have never made it, until today. I have a tutoring client that I saw today that lives only a couple of miles from the park. The time of day my appointment with her was during a high traffic time, and after a stressful ride down, I didn’t want to drive back in heavy traffic, so I headed to the park.

There is also fitness equipment there, and sometime I want to go back and do the circuit.

But anyway, today I just walked the labyrinth, similar to this design, as a moving meditation.

I’ve been experiencing a high level of anxiety lately, and as I was walking into the pattern, in several places, I had to stop and breathe through mounting anxiety. It seemed to take a long time to reach the center, and the pattern turned and kept going longer than I thought it would.

I relaxed when I got to the center and tried to empty my mind.

The entrance and the opening to the center face west, and you must face east when leaving.

In several cultures, the Underground/Afterlife is found in the west, where the sun sets (or metaphorically dies). This makes the east the direction of birth and rebirth.

While I did not have any visions or amazing insights, the way out (which is exactly the same as the way in) did not cause anxiety and seemed to take half the time of the way in.

Not sure what that means, as my anxiety is again rising now, several hours after the labyrinth. But I did feel better for a time.