Friday, February 1, 2019

Why Are People Assholes? (A Mostly Rhetorical Question)

One of my friends is grieving.  She's going through a major loss, and although she is very guarded with her emotions, I can see that she is hurting deeply.  I wish there were something I could do to take the pain away, but as is usually the case, all I can offer is a sympathetic ear, words of compassion, and an endless supply of hugs.  Nothing, and everything.

I hate when people suffer.  I've dedicated my working life to doing what I can to minimize suffering, and I try in all my interactions with people to be kind.  To not add anything further to the burdens that people already carry.  So when I see people acting cruelly, I am overwhelmed by the question "why?".  Why do billionaires underpay their employees and not allow them bathroom breaks?  Why do teenagers beat up homeless people?  Why do jerks go onto Twitter and attack perfectly wonderful personal finance bloggers about their decisions to buy new cars?

Is it just a failure of empathy?  A failure to see the humanity of the other person and give a shit about what they're going through?  And, if it is, how do people get so broken that they don't care about the pain they cause others?

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

What it is Like to Meditate

When I started to meditate, I arrogantly thought that I would be good at it.  I'm generally pretty good at sitting still, and I can stare off into space for hours, so I figured I'd be a natural. 

Nope.

Nope nope nope nope nope.

My monkey mind is as active as anyone else's.  From the moment I plunk my ass down on my meditation cushion at way-too-early o'clock, my mind starts wandering to anything other than my breath.

Should I put dried cherries or dried blueberries in my oatmeal today?  I had dried cherries yesterday, but they are my favourite, so maybe two days in a row is okay.

Should I go to yoga at 5:30 or 6:45?  I like the 6:45 instructor better, but I'm always hangry because I have to wait to eat supper.

I wonder if next year's conference is going to be in Barcelona.  I've never been to Spain.  I could eat tapas.  Mmmmm.  Tapas.  Maybe I should go to the tapas restaurant this weekend and have patatas bravas.

And on and on.  No matter how many times I bring my attention back to the in and out of my breath, it inevitably wanders back away.  Over and over again.

Which, for a perfectionist, is just a little annoying.  Some days I can sit with the distraction, watching my thoughts wander away and patiently bringing them back.  Other days I scream in my head "OMFG what the fuck is wrong with you it's just sitting and breathing it's not hard stop thinking about eating Hagen Daas when you get home from work tonight!"

The only reason I've been able to stick with it for over six months (six months!) is because I am a compulsive reader, and every single thing I've ever read about meditation has said that this is okay.  This is normal.  The wandering and returning isn't failing - it is the practice.

But I still find it hard to let go of the idea that someday I'll figure it out and every meditation will be bliss.  A few weeks ago, I went to a group meditation, and I meditated for a solid 45 minutes.  And it was awesome!  I have never in my life sat so peacefully and been so focused on my breathing.  I thought I had done it!

And then the next morning, on my cushion, my brain said "Don't forget to take your lunch to work today because it's the pasta sauce you really love and you'll be really sad if you leave it on the counter and you have a busy morning clinic and the pasta sauce will be good after clinic as long as you don't fuck up and do something stupid in clinic, in which case you'll be crying into your pasta sauce and it will be ruined forever and you'll need to find a new favourite recipe which is really hard to find so you'll probably be miserable until you die alone and without good pasta."

 So yeah.  This is me on meditation. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Words

In March of last year, about 5 months after my major breakup, I decided that I was ready to start dating again.  I had gotten past my initial euphoria at leaving a bad relationship, allowed myself to grieve the good parts, and reached the point where I felt okay with being single.  I was ready.

As I was getting back into dating, I distinctly remember thinking about how good a mental space I was in.  I felt like I had worked through a lot of my old demons (anxiety, self doubt) and kind of figured things out.  I understood shit.  I can even remember, in one particularly arrogant moment, thinking that I had learned most of the big things in life and really didn't have that much more to learn.

(Cue deep laughter from the universe.)

In my last post of an unsuccessful NaBloPoMo, I wrote somewhat glibly about starting to meditate, completely diminishing the magnitude of the impact it has had on me.  On one level, it has done what I expected it to:  made me appreciate the present moment more, helped lower anxiety, and improved my always inconsistent sleep.  What I completely didn't expect was the deeper changes it has brought about*.

Through meditation, I am learning to see everything more clearly.  I am getting more comfortable with difficult things and learning to sit with them so that I can understand them better.  Habits, thought patterns, relationships.  The last half of this year feels like a veritable explosion of self understanding and personal change.  Far more has happened than I can possibly capture in a single New Year's post.

It became popular a few years ago to choose a word for the year as a way of setting an intention, and while I didn't do it at the beginning of 2018, in retrospect, my word for the year was clearly growth.

And what for 2019?  Mostly, I want to keep going on the path that I'm already on.  I want to remain in the present moment, enjoying it when I can and learning from it when I can't. 

2019 is going to be all about mindfulness.

*This whole post feels so hokey, and if I'd read someone else's version of it a year ago, I'm sure I would have rolled my eyes and accused the writer of having drunk the magical kombucha.