slipstream

Slipstream ~ If an object is inside the slipstream behind another object, moving at the same speed, the rear object will require less power to maintain its speed than if it were moving independently.

These are some new practices and some of their results that I hadn’t expected so soon. They began with intentional exercises in self-care and are already beginning to shift into habits, effortless and essential rituals. It’s incredible to me how often I’ve made lists with these exact intentions, even painted some of them with watercolors and put them on my fridge. Yet they never happened. There is something greater than me at work right now, there is no other way to describe it. It’s as though I’ve stepped into a slipstream.

~ going to sleep early

~ not looking at my phone if I wake in the night

~ getting out of bed right when I wake up

~ journaling first thing

~ listening to podcasts instead of watching netflix

~ reading inspirational blogs

~ moving my body gently, yoga, stretching, sun salutations

~ sharing my writing

~ taking part in an online recovery community

~ hot herbals teas, hot water with various combinations of lemon, raw honey, apple cider vinegar, cayenne pepper, ginger, turmeric

~ whole foods, regular mealtimes, recognizing low blood sugar and caffeine limits

~ essential oils in my diffuser, on my body

~ hot, hot baths

And what I’ve noticed ~

~  less social anxiety than before, not more as I had feared

~ fewer fucks given, not having to protect or keep secrets; integrity

~ every decision  feels like a genuine one, isn’t clouded in confusion or uncertainty

~ my mind feels as though it’s settling, not having a man stirring it up…the ripples are easing into a stillness that feels SO good

~ no longer feel overwhelmed by a full mailbox or piles of laundry

~  more willingness and energy to give; to take my friend to get her spinal injections at 7:30am, with no hesitation

~ the ability to jump to pick up my sick girl when she needed me, and  plenty of energy to go to the store, cook, and care for her

~ the impulse to remove all my jewelry, all my nail polish, buff my bare nails, comb my hair and put it in a bun, go without make-up, only shave what I like to have shaved, to   strip down to the essence, and  feeling simply beautiful.

 

 

universal protection

Day 13 today. I’m realizing how much alcohol and men are intertwined for me.

Of  course I’ve been worrying about my ex, I wonder if he’s ok. I feel like a bitch. It’s hard to shake co-dependence, and I love him. After a week of no contact I felt good and my mind was becoming more clear. But then I got sick and  was in urgent care all day so I had to shoot him a text and tell him, because he works in an ER. He said he’s been thinking of me, seemed concerned. Asked how I’d been. I said “The not drinking is going great!” and the conversation fizzled out quickly. Then I went on OKcupid. WOW. I sure set myself up for that one. Sending that first text to him triggered a trip down the rabbit hole.

I was on OKcupid for about 15 minutes. I hadn’t been on for a year, so I updated my profile. I hid all the questions about drinking and sex. I was shocked at how much I had originally revealed. I took my fondness for  dancing near juke boxes and wine out of my description. I fell asleep and woke up to only 3 messages. Previously when I logged back on after an absence there would be at least 30 message the first night. I guess I’m boring now? Because I was sober for it all I can see exactly how this little jaunt  into online dating-land started: with me getting sick, feeling vulnerable, and texting the ex. 

I realize men are just another distraction or way to escape my feelings of unease, of discomfort, of feelings that are still hard to name for having avoided them for so long. I guess the most accurate word is loneliness. It brings to mind this  Elizabeth Gilbert quote from Eat, Pray, Love: “When I get lonely these days, I think: So BE lonely, Liz. Learn your way around loneliness. Make a map of it. Sit with it, for once in your life. Welcome to the human experience. But never again use another person’s body or emotions as a scratching post for your own unfulfilled yearnings.”

I  reread Rejection is the Universal Protection this morning, a blog post by Laura on I Fly at Night. It’s about her patterns of attracting and being attracted to men who didn’t serve her in her growth and potential. In a period of feeling rejected and thinking of all the previous times she’d felt rejected, she realized it was the universe’s way of protecting her and she remembered ‘upper limiting’. She writes, upper limiting is “a term used by Gay Hendricks in his incredible book, The Big Leap. The basic gist is this: each of us has an inner thermostat setting that determines how much love, success, and creativity we allow ourselves to enjoy. When we exceed our inner thermostat setting, we will often do something to sabotage ourselves, causing us to drop back into the old, familiar zone where we feel secure.”

By continuing to become involved in relationships that aren’t conducive to my growth, I’m subconsciously creating a barrier to my potential -because, well, change is scary and uncomfortable.  I’m going to try to remember that if the universe isn’t sending me my partner yet it is just her way of protecting me, so I can safely continue to learn my way around my achy heart.

One more great link.

 

 

 

 

the sobriety experiment: Part 2

”I’ve taken a break. Maybe I’ll drink again. Maybe I won’t.”  ~ Andy Boyle

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At first I just made the decision to not drink for 30 days, which I figured was enough time to get over the break-up and also to see if I could do it. I had been envying people who stopped drinking for various amounts of time, and I now had my chance to experiment with it. I still don’t know if I’m an alcoholic but I know it’s been affecting my life in a negative way, I’ve been drinking abusively, and I’m on a slippery slope, especially with my family history. I honestly didn’t think it would be very difficult because I only drank a few times a week and could go days without it. I am more of a binge drinker; if I drink one I usually keep drinking until I’m very buzzed or drunk. I’m aware this is still alcohol abuse, dangerous, and gets me into trouble. I know the only reason I haven’t “hit bottom” yet was because I’ve been very lucky. I didn’t really have a plan for how I would quit.  I figured I’d just avoid going out with my friends and such triggering situations for 30 days, then I would hopefully be strong enough to go back to those situations and drink like a normal person.

For inspiration  I started reading the recovery blogs I Fly At Night and Hip Sobriety, written by Laura McKowen and Holly Whitaker. They also have a joint podcast called Home. I started listening to their podcast first thing when I woke up, in my car, and as I fell asleep. I learned that I don’t need to hit bottom or call myself an alcoholic to quit drinking. That if drinking is a problem I’m a problem drinker. That apparently being sober can lead to greater happiness and a rich, full, awake life. That I could still be fun and interesting sober. That no more hangovers is incredible. That the sex is better. That maybe I want to do this forever.

I took their advice and wrote my ‘drinking story’, beginning with the first time I got drunk: I was 11 years old and an 18 year old guy I’d met at the beach came to my house with a 40 ouncer of Colt 45 after my mom left for her night shift. I drank it, threw up in the sink, and he had sex with me. The rest of my middle school and high school years is a blur of alcohol, cocaine, acid,  mushrooms, and  sex. I met my husband in a bar in Tijuana at 18 years old, and we settled into marriage, college, and having babies. But although I barely drank for the 20 years of my marriage, when it ended I quickly picked up where I’d left off at 18 years old;  within months I was binging so hard I  had puked all over my friend’s bathroom, driven drunk,  passed out in the gutter in front of a dive bar, and hit on a best friend’s boyfriend.

I’m not sure for how long I will stop drinking. I’m committing to 30 days, with the option to increase it to 6 months, a year, forever. I may decide to experiment with drinking again to be sure. I don’t  want to quit drinking forever. I’m afraid my friendships will change. I’m afraid I have social anxiety without it and will isolate. I’m afraid of what dating will look like, I’m afraid of first-time sober sex. I’m afraid of special occasions, New Years Eve, friends’ birthdays.

If I can’t do it will it mean I’m an alcoholic?  Then everyone will know, and I can never go back. But the truth is, in all the blogs and podcasts I’ve been immersed in this week, such bumps can be part of the path and growth process. Some people need to drink again to be certain they have a problem. And of course there’s a possibility that I will stop for a while, try again, and find that once I’m in a more stable place I can drink like a normal person. One never knows. If I do drink again I intend to be honest about it here. This blog is about my journey in real-time.

~ from  my journal on day 5 ~ i wake in the early morning wondering what i’m doing. what if this not drinking thing is another of my grand ideas like a diet or quitting smoking, and what if i talk myself out of it, next week, or tonight. what if i can’t do this, and if i can’t, what does that mean? 

~ from my journal day 8 ~ felt so ansty yesterday…it was rainy and gloomy and I so wanted to go to my bestie’s house and drink wine and play with my new tarot deck…  i knew if i did i’d send HIM a stupid text, text another ex, or go on a dating site, and wake up feeling thoroughly disappointed with myself. so i wrote and  ate pizza and candy and took a hot hot bubble bath. I WOKE UP SO FUCKING HAPPY AND AT PEACE WITH MYSELF AND SO SO PROUD!!!

spiraling up the mountain: thoughts on religion

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                 Yangsi Rinpoche, Land of Medicine Buddha, 2005

~ this is an edited version of an essay I wrote on religion for my “Composition and Critical Thinking” class in the fall of 2015 ~

I was raised by hippies in the 70’s without religion or much spirituality. When I asked my parents at age 8 what religion I belonged to they asked me if I believed Jesus came back from the dead. “Of course not!’ I replied, to which they answered, “Then you’re Jewish!” I thought I was Jewish for many years after that.  My parents don’t remember this story, but it still makes me giggle.

I met my soon-to-be husband at age 18, and he was Lutheran but open-minded, or so I thought. However a few months before our wedding he took me on a picnic in the woods, sat me down, and said if I didn’t believe that the stories such as  Adam and Eve were literally true he was afraid I’d go to hell. This made him hesitant to marry me, as we wouldn’t be together in the afterlife. I was stunned. I said I’d work on it, he was satisfied with that, and it was never spoken of again. A few years later he took a Death, Dying, and Religion class in college and his mind was opened to the possibility of other views, in particular those of the Eastern religions. He shared his insights with me and we both started listening to Allen Watts and seeking.

I was searching for something to give life meaning in an effort to fend of the depression, mental illness, and addiction that plagues my family and which I felt looming in the future. I read many books on Christianity, Kaballah, and Zen Buddism, as well as the works of Deepak Chopra, Ram Dass, and Eckhart Tolle. It wasn’t until I read a book on Tibetan Buddhism and various coincidences led me to a local Tibetan Buddhist center, that I felt I’d finally landed “home”.

The first class I went to seemed to answer the age-old question “why do bad things happen to good people” and vice versa, with its teachings on reincarnation and the law of karma. I was already familiar and open to these concepts and apparently Lamas, monks, and nuns in Tibet had been studying and meditating on them for centuries. Learning that they were also studying and meditating on how to practice controlling our karma and how to die, combined with the fact that the well- known and respected Dalai Lama was the head of the center I was attending, had me sold.

When I attended my first teaching with an actual reincarnated Lama I had no expectations. Yet even though he spoke no English, I experienced a transcendental experience that affected me for weeks. It was the first of many. My only explanation was that these Lamas were magical, and I wanted what they had. I learned from them how to gain similar insights and experiences through my own meditations and practices. There may be a more scientific explanation. According to Sharon Begley, a senior science writer for the Boston Globe, “the brain has a region, the parietal lobe, that detects where our body physically ends and the larger world begins. But this circuitry can be silenced by intense prayer or meditation, neuroscientist Andrew Newberg has found, producing a sense of oneness with the cosmos or God.” (1) Whatever the explanation, I subsequently dove deep into the teachings, practices, and rituals. I met my own personal Lama and received instructions and guidance on my practice.

As I tried to remain open-minded and to believe other religions could lead to the same result, I was aware that deep down I was starting to believe the path I was on was the only one to lead to full liberation and enlightenment. I was resistant to becoming a fundamentalist, because it seemed contradictory to the teachings I was receiving. What I loved about the tradition was its inclusive nature and encouragement to question everything, yet there were certain aspects that felt and sounded like dogma to me. For example, in some texts it was written that if one doesn’t keep one’s altar dust-free negative karma is created.

The interesting thing about Tibetan Buddhism is that it’s the most ritualized and traditional form of Buddhism. Some like to call it the “Catholicism of Buddhism”. Those familiar with Zen are often taken aback by all the different deities, statues, colorful paintings, incense, ritual, and Guru devotion. This was the richness and warmth that originally drew me in. Some Buddhists think it’s materialistic with its reliance on malas (“prayer beads”) and other ritual items. Some say it intellectualizes the teachings too much with its heavy emphases on philosophy, thick texts to study, and passionate debate – too much thinking! Isn’t Buddhism about emptying your mind of thought? I began to doubt.

After a few years the honeymoon period wore off. I felt as though I had been a dry sponge that had soaked up so much so fast it could contain no more. I went to teachings and couldn’t absorb the same words that had previously affected me so profoundly. My meditations and ritual practices became a chore and I was resentful. I stopped doing them entirely and sank into depression. I wondered if I should try something else – the Yoga Path? Wicca? Catholicism? (Because I dearly love Mother Mary and the saints). Buddhism was so negative with all the talk of suffering, I couldn’t enjoy going to the beach or watching a sunset and I became nihilistic. I felt my Lama was disappointed in me.

It’s been four years since I’ve had a daily meditation practice. I frequently ask myself, am I still Buddhist? I believe in the major tenets, so yes. Why such resistance to practicing regularly, or going to teachings? I think I took on too much too soon. And I still question how important it is to keep my altar dust free, although I still have a pretty elaborate (dusty) altar taking up a corner of my bedroom.

I recently watched an interview Oprah Winfrey gave with author and former Catholic monk, Thomas Moore. It was regarding his new book, “A Religion of One’s Own: A Guide to Creating a Personal Spirituality in a Secular World” (3). I had the show set to record and the book ordered before it even aired. His premise is that organized religion is on its way out and that humanity’s consciousness is going through a transition. He believes that the spiritual way of the future for the survival and peace of humanity is for people, who are as unique as their fingerprints, to find what gives them a feeling of personal connection to their higher power, the universe, or God if you will, and create a living experiential practice of prayer, ritual, and ceremony to develop and increase that connection. The book arrived too late to read in its entirety and reflect on it in this paper, but what I’ve got so far is that if one’s spiritual practice isn’t developing that connection then maybe it’s not the right one.

This idea really speaks to me, and I’m excited to go back to my Buddhist background and remember what it was that excited me in the early years. But as I think about the rituals that became empty to me I remember my Lama and teachers saying: when they are hard, or boring, you just keep doing them anyway.  Spiritual practice is not always going to feel good – thinking that it will is just another attachment. It’s the same with yoga, exercise, eating healthy – you don’t always want to but you do it anyway and there are breakthroughs. I’m still in the process of reconciling all I learned when I was in the depths of my study and practice and how I can incorporate it into my current life.

What I do believe for sure is the law of karma and that the energy I put out is returned to me, if not in this life than in the next. I believe that nothing is as it appears and that our perceptions are created by our unique karma and are ours alone. I believe that compassion and understanding and love for others is the root of happiness. I believe sitting in meditation, doing long retreats, and reciting hundreds of thousands of mantras can lead to states of mind I hadn’t known existed. I believe the Lamas are magical and can transmit blessings and bliss. I believe in auspicious coincidences. And I believe that dusting my altar with mindfulness and pure intention can feel really, really good.

I think there are pros and cons to following one religion completely to the finish line and creating one’s unique ‘religion’. What works for one person may not work for another, based on their karma, their upbringing, or where they are in their life. We are constantly changing.

My teachers have said that there are many paths up the mountain and they all get to the top. If we constantly switch paths we will be doing spirals up the mountain, and it will take much longer. The other danger of constantly switching paths is that we are listening to our pleasure-seeking ego which doesn’t always know what’s best for us. But there is also a danger to following one religion completely and blindly, as we can see throughout history and in the news on a daily basis. There can be a danger on a personal level as well, if the teachings aren’t questioned and become dogma they won’t affect one in a profound way.

I think the barometer for the value of one’s religion or spirituality can be gauged by whether or not it changes them for the better. I reflect on who I was before I found Buddhism and recognize that I’m more patient, compassionate, and content than I was before. I forgive more easily and have less judgement for those different than me or who harm me. I hold situations and events with a lighter grip through the lens of impermanence and knowing I’m not the center of the universe. The teachings are still very much a part of me and guide how I treat others and myself, regardless how often I meditate. I believe that this is the purpose of any religion or spiritually, ultimately.

the sobriety experiment: Part 1

It may be obvious to some but it wasn’t immediately apparent to me, even after finding my word, that alcohol has been putting out my fire. I had glimmers of awareness, but I was 8 months into an intense, codependent relationship  and  in love. I thought quitting drinking would mean quitting him. This post is difficult to write because it is very much mixed up with men and relationship addiction. So I’ll make it a two-parter.

When I started my self-examination with the coming of the new year and setting my intentions, I couldn’t avoid the fact that I wasn’t sure my boyfriend would fit into the plan. Some of the things I knew I needed were a regular sleep schedule, a morning routine of yoga and writing, and no hangovers, confusion, or drama.

We  had a date five days into my new healthy routine and I didn’t really want to go.  Over those 5 days I’d already come to love going to bed early and waking up early in my own bed. That morning I got my hair done and said to my long-time friend and hairdresser, “I’m concerned about my drinking and would like to experiment with sobriety, but I don’t know if I can as long as I’m with him. We’re drinking buddies.”

That evening as I packed my overnight bag I looked at my bed, sighed, and said “I’ll miss you tonight.” I got to his house at 6pm, to go to a movie for what I had hoped would be a mellow, early night. He was in a grumpy mood, and as soon as he started his familiar “I feel trapped” monologue I picked up my overnight bag and walked out. I didn’t cry that night. I knew the universe heard my intentions and was trying to make it easier for me to accomplish them.

The night after we decided to take that break, 8  days ago,  is the last time I drank. This was the second codependent relationship I’ve been in since my divorce 5 years ago. I’ve never been in a relationship that didn’t begin with alcohol. Regardless whether I am an alcoholic or not, I like to drink and I’m attracted to and have fun with guys who like to drink. There is something within myself that needs to change in order to disrupt this pattern of mine. Maybe this relationship will survive, maybe it won’t, but the only way anything will change in my relationships, whether with him or the next guy, will be if I change something within myself.

 

 

 

to feed the fire

stoke

/stōk/

verb: to add fuel to, keep burning, tend; to increase the amount or strength of; to encourage; to feed abundantly; to excite or thrill; to increase the intensity of; to make happy

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I’ve been floating around in limbo for a few years now, since my marriage ended 5 years ago. Spending time with toxic men and drinking with my girlfriends has been taking priority over my own physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. I haven’t been the best mom I can be, I’ve been sleeping too much and watching too much netflix, and my life has had little direction. I struggle with depression and anxiety and financial insecurity. I let my car insurance lapse and I didn’t know I was driving uninsured for 2 weeks because I forgot to pick up my mail. These things and various other signs pointed to the fact that I was barely keeping my shit together.

My recent unstable relationship found me getting myself into trouble out of spite and putting myself into unsafe situations with men, the worst being a little over two months ago. I  found myself on the sidewalk alone in the most dangerous part of town at 2am. I was unable to tell the Uber driver exactly where I was. I had to keep him on the phone and walk 4 blocks for him to find me.

Then my mom had a relapse with alcohol and accidental overdose of sleeping pills over the holidays. I spent weeks wondering  if our shared DNA was propelling me to the same destiny and if the direction I was heading would lead me to the same place – on a ventilator in ICU – at the age of 70. She is out of the woods, on a good path, and better and more hopeful than she’s been for two years now. It was a good wake-up call for her, and as it turns out, for me too.

The past five years have contained many lessons about attachment, letting go, co-dependence, addiction, love,  and loss. Many mistakes were made, and last year culminated with  a December and holiday season that left me on my knees. With the arrival of the new year and a blank page in front of me I felt a fresh start was calling. I don’t believe in resolutions but I do believe in intention setting. I started journaling and came upon an  online course that spoke to me. It has tools for examining the previous year and creating intentions for the new one ( Susanna Conway: Unravelling).

In journaling I realized I have a lot going on this year to be excited for and proud of. My daughters are happy and healthy and a source of so much joy to me. I have a beautiful circle of amazing women in my tribe. I began school online  last fall in an effort to get my life rolling in a positive direction, to get into a flow forward. The journaling has given me motivation, focus, and excitement about finishing my Associate’s degree in English this year, putting more energy into my spiritual and financial well-being, and connecting with family and friends who help elevate me  to my potential. It became clear that in order to accomplish my goals and dreams I  need to be as strong, healthy, and focused as I can be, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically.

Part of the course is to ‘find your word’ for the year. In searching for my word I found I want to focus on igniting my inner fire for life and to stop giving my power away to men, distraction, and drama. I want to choose things in my life that build up that fire  inside  instead of scattering my energy and power. I didn’t want a passive word like ‘center’ or self-care’, even though they are appropriate. Some of the words that came were  radiate, power, focus, ignite, and spark, but when “stoke” popped up in my head I knew that was it- because it also means joyful and excited.

Next month will mark 5 years since my marriage ended. Having gotten married at 19 and missing my single 20’s and the bar scene, I was very naive about men and life and had a lot to catch up on. I learned how to order a drink in a bar and that guys who hit on me don’t necessarily like me or want a relationship. I learned I shouldn’t do shots at midnight (that one took a lot of trial and error). My more serious relationships had a lot of bright red flags that I had to experience in order to say ‘never again’. I bought my first car, got my own checking account, my first apartment, and began a career as a massage therapist. I did many of  the things one does in their twenties. I don’t regret any the mistakes I’ve made in trying to  find my feet and am fully aware that I will make many more. But this is the year I hope to begin inhabiting my 44 year old self.

Stoke means making choices  that feed the embers in my heart and avoiding activities and people  that suffocate them or put them out. These embers have been glowing all my life, and I’m going to add kindling, oxygen, and fuel, to make my fire so strong and hot that it no longer wants to go out, and so bright it can share its light with the world.