It’s been long day. We closed on our house Friday, I’m in the process of coordinating 5 different contractors to get things fixed up before we move in, the roof on our current rental is being replaced so it’s been incredibly loud, our AC went out so it’s been 85 in here today (around 92 in my office upstairs), and our landlord laughed at me when I called to ask for some sort of compensation for the headache.
I’ve always had a hard time falling asleep.
For the past few years I’ve gotten in the routine of meditating until I start nodding off then crawling into bed and passing out. This has worked great…. up until a new baby entered into the equation…
Veda is really hit or miss on her sleeping. Some nights it’s great, other nights she’s up all the time.
Because of this I’ve gotten into the mindset of “Ok, Veda is asleep, I need to fall asleep NOW so I can get some sleep before she wakes up”. It stresses me out. And Sunday and Monday I got like 3 hours of sleep each night. Not necessarily because she was up a lot, but because I was lying awake stressing out about what would happen if she DID wake up. Pretty ridiculous…
Last night I was headed down the same path so I got up and started meditating, trying to get into that old routine again. I got like 30 minutes in, started nodding off, got into bed and crossed my fingers…. And I immediately started stressing out and couldn’t sleep….
I lay there for an hour and then got up to try meditating again.
I was super pissed but stuck with it, and this time after 30 minutes something interesting happened. And this is really why I always come back to meditation. For me it’s the quickest way to get to these insights that might have otherwise taken weeks or months to come to.
I had a thought pop in. It’s one of my favorite prayers / mantra’s:
“Help me see this moment in a more loving light”
Hearing this totally snapped me out of the rut I wasn’t even really aware that I was in. There was no compassion, no love in the attitude I had been taking. I saw her sleeplessness and my anxiety about it as a frustration that needed to be eradicated so I could get back to my normal routine. So I could be happy.
Now there was this new found love that started swelling up and overtaking the old negativity. I realized that this situation could instead be perceived as a challenge. Can I bring love and compassion to this difficult experience? It’s like going to the love gym.
Taking this approach lets me work WITH the irritation instead of AGAINST it. Working against it like I had been doing just made it worse. My flow was totally blocked and I was just piling more pressure behind the build up. But now I can instead embrace the negativity and start to transform it into something I can use. Something that makes me feel happy regardless of if she is sleeping, regardless of if I am sleeping.
And interestingly enough as soon as I adopted this new attitude I hopped back into bed and went right to sleep.
I’ve been thinking a lot about certainty vs uncertainty. It seems most of us have fixed opinions about most things and spend a lot of time further entrenching these positions. The most glaring example of this is any kind of political discussion. The extremity of this struck me while reading a facebook thread on Bernie Sanders. There was no actual discussion happening. Each side was just trying to murder the other using information bullets. Like a game of dodgeball.
I’ve observed this in myself in the imaginary dialogues I have with people. My favorite is to argue with a strict materialist atheist. I spend a lot of time thinking up ways to justify my position against them in an irrefutable manner.
This sets the stage for an Aha moment I had last night while reading an interesting book about how to shift around our mindset. The passage I was reading was a thought exercise of adopting a rotating set of belief systems. Like for a month you strictly believe in monotheism, the next month polytheism, the next month atheism. The goal being to dislodge the fixed patterns we have in our minds and to see the world in a less dualistic manner.
This is so interesting to me and shows me a glimpse into a way of thinking without fixed opinions. The mind becomes like a free-flowing river instead of a stagnant bog. But then it occurred to me that this stagnant bog serves a very specific purpose. It gives the ego something to hold onto. I think it actively encourages us to entrench ourselves into our opinions and spin our wheels in unwinnable arguments. The more we do this the more imagined stability we have for it to cling to. And it doesn’t matter which side of the argument we’re on. The ego could care less about the content of the belief, it’s all about the process of entrenchment.
But imagine for a second what our lives could be like without all this. And not just our opinions about politics, but people as well. What if we didn’t have these rigid opinions about our parents? Spouse? Kids? Dog? What if we allowed these relationships to be a free-flowing experience instead? I feel much more authenticity and enjoyment in this direction.
And I’m not saying the ideal is to go to the extreme of having no fixed opinions, but at least leaning more in that direction. Which means taking a huge step out of the norm because our society is heavily structured for the opposite.
So maybe next time you’re having a political “discussion” just start asking yourself, is this bringing me happiness? How does having this fixed opinion really effect me? Is it absolutely necessary for me to have a strong opinion about this? Why?
And then just for a split second try to imagine what it would be like if you didn’t hold onto that belief so tightly.
If life is pain, then it seems the purpose of life is to be ok with this. To accept it and embrace it. For it seems like you can only be happy to the extent that you do this.
If I’m in pain and I’m trying to run away from it, to solve it, whenever I do enter a state of happiness I cling to it, so even that is tainted with anxiety. Worry. Fear.
So you’re never able to truly be happy.
BUT! If you are in pain and you say, ok, I’m in pain, let me feel this. Let me live in this. It’s actually ok. There’s nothing to fix here. It’s perfectly ok. There is an ebb and flow to nature and right now there is pain but it won’t always be here.
As soon as you’re ok with pain, that means you can also be ok with pleasure. The next time you’re happy you can fully embrace it because you won’t be clinging to it. I’m happy now, great! I’ll ride with this as long as it’s here and then when it passes, I’ll go on to the next thing.
So it seems like the purpose of life is to embrace what your current experience is.
If you think it’s your job, you will always be working. 7:00 on a Friday night and you’ll be stressing about everything you need to do. If it’s to give to the poor, same story, you’ll never be able to relax because that is selfish. But if you’re like, when I’m working the purpose of my life is to work, when I’m with my family it’s to be 100% with my family, when I’m eating it’s to be present with my food and that experience. When I’m in pain, my back hurts and I’m angry at the work, IT’S TO BE 100% WITH THAT EXPERIENCE. Every moment becomes the purpose of life, not some grand ideal. Not a static state or only one experience. It becomes everything… Including pain but not limited to it…
I think we all try to avoid this. We find our causes, our grand ideals. Maybe it’s a connection with God. Maybe it’s the relationship you have with your spouse. Maybe it’s the relationship you have with your kids. There is no escaping the pain. You can be very very clever and think you’re beyond it, that you have a special bond with whatever that protects you. You are 100% in love with that experience and pain can never touch you! But if you get very still and really look within you’ll probably find yourself running from it.
I think I’ve finally figured out how to stop running…
I recently bought a house that’s about 30 min. outside of the city. Yesterday I was driving to my regular yoga class and had a bit more time to think about things during the drive. All of a sudden I realized there was a tension inside of me. I had no idea where it originated, but I had this thought
“I need to get rid of this tension so I can get back to being in a peaceful state.”
But then I thought to myself, there’s probably a better way to approach feelings like this. That instead of trying to get rid of the uneasiness, I could instead use that as the raw material to create that positive state I was looking for. That a positive frame of mind isn’t won by the absence of negativity, but by being able to work with whatever feelings come up.
This seems to be so much more empowering. Previously it had all been about avoiding uncomfortable situations. That this was the way to happiness. But more and more I’m seeing now that true happiness is the confidence that whatever arises I can use it to create whatever I want.
I read a book all about this change in approach that I’d highly recommend. One of my favorites.
In my last post I wrote about an experience I had separating from my thoughts which allowed me to personify them. I thought distancing myself from my thoughts was going to be something I’d be able to do consistently, but in a days since that happened I’ve discovered that this is very hard to do. Like I try to imagine my thoughts outside my head, but it doesn’t really work. It’s not near as effective as what happened spontaneously during that meditation.
BUT! Something else from that post really has worked. The idea of personifying my thoughts. I thought the way this is going to work was first distancing my thoughts, then I’d be able to personify them. But actually I see the reverse happening. I first have to turn my thoughts into a person, then I’m able to work with them.
So I start by asking myself, what do my thoughts look like? Are they a jumbled up mess? A tornado? A rubber band ball? This allows me to disconnect from them a little bit and start looking at them objectively. Then I start asking:
If my thoughts were a person what would they look like?
How old are they?
What kind of emotional state are they in?
I’ve been doing this a ton the past few days and I started noticing a few patterns. This person is usually pretty young. Either a child or a teenager. And they are very pissed off and demanding, but right underneath this is fear.
Yesterday I sent an e-mail to a friend in the morning, and the rest of the day I was plagued with worry over what I had said. LITERALLY ALL FUCKING DAY LONG it was eating away at me. Over and over and over. Absolutely miserable. But then at night something clicked. I was able to see the person behind this worry. How terrified they were. How all this worry was just a way for them to try to be in control of something that is uncontrollable… which understandably leads to that feeling of panic.
And I’ve seen this pattern in the past, but being able to see it as something outside myself makes a hugeeee difference. Because it’s so much easier to extend love and compassion to this image. It’s no longer personal. I’m able to step out of that story and view it from above. With an understanding and a sense of grace that is hard to muster when you’re in the thick of it. When you ARE it.
My favorite yoga class is Monday evenings. It’s taught by a super expressive gay guy who loves playing cheesy pop music (couple spice girls tracks last class….), which creates a pretty humorous contrast with yoga which can tend to be overly serious. But what I noticed last class was that I was able to separate myself from the music and really focus in on my experience. The music became something external that was no longer distracting, or really even influencing me. I was kind of in a bubble.
That night when I was meditating the same thing happened with my thoughts. It occurred to me that our thoughts are really non-local. We hear them in our heads, but is this necessarily true? I was at a meditation seminar a couple years ago and the guy running it was asking us where in our bodies we felt like our presence resided. Like if your arm got chopped off, would that affect your presence? Would it be reduced? If you got a heart transplant would that change it? The general consensus was that our presence was somewhere in our chest, but it’s really impossible to pin down.
I think the same thing goes for our thoughts. We’ve become accustomed to “hearing” them in our heads, but I think this is just a learned behavior. I think we can shift them around if we focus on it.
Which is what started naturally happening as I was meditating. It felt like I was sinking down into a well, and my thoughts were staying up on the surface. Like they were above me looking down and trying to talk to me, trying to stretch down their tentacles to hook into me. But as long as they were disconnected like that, they didn’t have near the influence they usually did. It was a very peaceful state.
I just read “The Love Languages” by Gary Chapman which talks about the different ways we give and receive love. Words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch. We each have a primary one and if we don’t receive love in this form our “love tank” isn’t filled. Like for me it’s physical touch. Everyone in the world could be telling me how awesome I was, but if I don’t have that human contact (even just a light touch) it won’t really fill me up.
One of the things he covers is the way we talk to our spouses. Demanding language, trying to coerce each other into doing things is not an expression of love. All you can do is make requests in a loving way and then step back and see what happens.
I realized that once I separated my thoughts I could personify them, making it much easier to see their attitude towards me.. and it was very demanding. My thoughts weren’t making requests, they wanted what they wanted immediately. There was no consideration for my feeling, I was merely the object to execute their desire. Like a husband coming home and yelling at his wife for not having dinner ready. She’s just there to cook for him. A robot you can have sex with.
I saw that when these thoughts are inside me it leads to a pretty horrible existence. It’s like having that demanding husband INSIDE you. Which tricks you into thinking that YOU are the one actually making the request. We believe we ARE our thoughts. How clever… How hopelessly obedient we are…
But not anymore. I’ve established a sense of self that’s independent of my thoughts. I’ll listen to their input, but I’ll only do what I want. What is best for me. And the key here is to not hate your thoughts. They aren’t villainous.
In that book he told a story of a troubled marriage. The husband was incredibly demanding of his wife and she was on the verge of leaving him. She was trying to get him to counseling, but he refused. He said she was the only one with a problem. So the therapist recommended she treat him as Jesus would. Love him despite how she treated her. She was out of options so decided to take on this challenge. And after a couple weeks, he started changing. He felt that love coming from her and naturally started reciprocating it.
I think I’m going to take the same approach to my thoughts. To just extend gratefulness and love towards them. Last night as I did this I went into a huge expanded state and felt this immense, powerful white light radiating out from me. Without my thoughts there to damper it, it’s like that was my natural state of being. And I think if this is the diet I keep feeding my thoughts, they will eventually turn around and mirror this. I will actually have them as an ally. A friend. A partner.