Art of the con

Everything is rightfully about Coronavirus now, but I find myself looking over the present moment’s shoulder, even more concerned about pandemics to come than I am about this one. My country keeps proving itself so childish in the way we handle big things.

I didn’t vote for Donald Trump, but my guess is that most people who did, reasoned along the lines that if there were a serious challenge, even he would rise to the occasion. From where I sit however, it seems like an almost intentional systematic failure has been allowed to happen in a system priding itself on being able to take wild risks because of its supposed checks and balances. “We the people” have such faith in those checks and balances! We have such blind trust that we go on with life as usual in the face of scarily ridiculous antics and entirely transparent circus shows, believing in some invisible good will beneath it all.

[spoilers ahead for Better Call Saul season 5/episode 5]

Wisdom can come through from the most unlikely places, and last night a little came through while watching Better Call Saul, a show based on a side character in Breaking Bad. Better Call Saul is less brutal of a show than Breaking Bad, but deals with the same gritty Shakespearean and Biblical themes of motives and testing. Whereas Walter White was a good guy sort of character until given the opportunity to reveal his lust for recognition, Saul is assumed to be helplessly shady.

But we root for him.

I think we root for the playfulness with which he approaches things, dancing very close to the edge. For those versed in Buddhism, maybe we could see him as a Padmasambhava crazy-wisdom type character, defying all odds. Still, we’re aware every second that we’re watching a tragedy unfold.

This is a very American story.

In the latest episode, we see just how much of a blatant con man Saul can be, and how he easily and shamelessly uses his powers against a giant economic force. Honestly, it was delightful as he pulled one rabbit after another out of his proverbial hat in service of being a champion in the eyes of the woman he loves.

I think that’s where the difference between the two characters reveals itself most strongly. Talent appears in service to something for both characters, but Saul’s motives are more pure.

Doesn’t this seem a big part of the American question? So many in my country have a romantic sensibility of the pioneering west… a vast open land where individuality can flourish, and bad taste too, if it wants to. In a vast open land, territorial conflicts are handled by just the people involved; people look each other in the eye… push each other left or right over time. Who has time to micromanage the social dynamics in the village next door?

Someone who sees the world this way could indeed vote for what a Donald Trump appeared to be. In that scenario, the person might see themselves as the man Saul is protecting from eviction by the big corporation. They may have seen tacky con man Trump as standing up against big government overrunning their lives, pushing back the tides of collectivism, whatever ridiculous antics it takes.

Never mind who’s side justice is actually on… who actually has the right of way. Or that our challenges are actually extremely collective now. We no longer live in a vast undeveloped land.

Sadly, I think many will want the bully even more. They’ll see someone like him as being willing to use whatever dirty means to get the US ‘the best deal’ possible, us against them, especially during resource wars. Unless, a moment such as we’re in finally reveals the danger of such thinking, because he has never truly on the side of that individual guy. He’s just on his own side.

Motives do matter.

Come to the dark side…

Fantastic interview up on the Waking Up app: The Dark Side of Meditation. I’ve listened twice so far, since I listen while multitasking, inevitably missing out on portions, but this topic rarely comes up (Let’s face it, in our day-to-day circles, there are already enough detractors, so who wants to fill the inspirational space with downsides?).

Nonetheless, it may be a good sign we’ve reached this point in the conversation; we can draw from systematic research (ongoing) into the disparate effects of spiritual practice. Which seems particularly important since many people are gleaning the larger part of their information and practice instructions online. When they hit an issue or disturbance, there may be no one there to directly help evaluate whether it is something that will pass naturally, or something needs to be immediately addressed. There also may be no one there to help hold awareness of ‘the whole’ of a person’s life as they become focused on bringing forth changes, making it difficult or even impossible to integrate the new knowledge and ways of being.

Maybe we can call this a wine skin crossroad of awakening?

But here’s the thing about this point in the journey: to discard the old wine skin makes sense at the beginning. Just as a person in recovery from addiction may need to separate from old friend groups and hang outs, there is a time not to look to the left or right. However, we are (seemingly at least for now) finite beings sharing one globe – not to mention roads, buses, stores, political systems, etc. We can’t help but matter to each other, want to be seen by each other… care.

What comes to mind for me is the community required when a new baby comes into the world. There is the mother’s and baby’s experience, which rightfully may be most important just then, but also the father’s, the parents’ as a team, siblings’, grandparents’, etc. It is an entire ecosystem!

So I love that the interview begins with the role of emotion, and the way many people come to meditation and spiritual practice because they can’t get a handle on their emotion. Mitigating the negative MAY mitigate the positive as well, and there is a point at which this must open up further beyond those two, or else the effect may be disconnection… inability to deeply feel, or to feel about. I love that more of us are standing up for our emotional responses.

I’m not saying there is any way around the reality that when one changes, there are reverberations, but it is crucial to look soberly. And anyway I just wanted to chime in a little. πŸ™‚ Now I’m off to pick up sandwiches for a work party, feeling grateful for my own re-entry, if you will.

Asking and Answering

Although I originally subscribed to the newsletter How to Save the World because I was researching a project the writer was involved in, I came to appreciate his writing and sincerity. His awakening has felt to parallel mine at times: starting off with a strong desire to seed change in the world, then with deeper focus and significant ‘spiritual’ realization, loving the world, more and more, just as it is. There’s a fair bit of melancholy acceptance inside that shift, but liberation of focus too, as a large part of one’s energy uncouples from entrenched systems.

β€œYou never change things by fighting the existing reality.
To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
― Buckminster Fuller

Linking to a site called ClearerThinking.org, a recent newsletter contained some interesting ideas about the quality of questions we ask and answer; I couldn’t help but want to respond to the examples! So here goes!

Some specific questions to get to know someone better:

  • If you were getting a portrait taken, and the photographer asked you to hold something in your hand that told viewers something important about you, what would it be?

    I love this question so much that I skipped it to come back to at the end, yet still have no answer! A desert rose? Hologram of a Buddha field? My stuffed blue dog from childhood? πŸ™‚

  • What do you believe that no one else does? (the famous Peter Thiel question)

    I believe we humans read each other’s thoughts and intentions (both voiced and unvoiced) extremely well. We just aren’t good at integrating this knowledge, so have lots of strategies to distract and cover the capacity.

  • What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?

    I remember being asked this question at a round table discussion I attended. I couldn’t narrow down *everything*, which seemed like a cop-out. Almost 30 years later, I still want to do so (too?) many things! However, my honest answer right now is that I would fully express myself, no matter what ‘thing’ I am doing. It is sort of the same answer, however doesn’t FEEL vague like before.

  • What do you wish you’d learned earlier in life?

    There are so many things (money related, relationships and families related), but today I’ll answer: that I was always enough. That my contributions are valuable. That I don’t have to give everything away or disappear to be safe. It is okay to be in the room.

  • In a few sentences, summarize your worldview or philosophy of life. What do you think is life’s meaning or purpose?

    πŸ™‚ What comes to mind is a favorite Auden quote: “We are here on earth to help others. What the others are here for, I don’t know.” But further to Ramana Maharshi’s: “There are no others.” Related, in meditation one day I heard, “It isn’t about being a good person. It is about love.”
    At core, I believe there is nothing but love.


    * What would you like to be renowned for?

    So often people have filled in gaps, impatient with my too thoughtful verbalizing of ideas, or holes in stories I never forced (or even asked, really) anyone to hear my side of. I think it would be amazing for some of that false gap-filling to fall away, to connect directly, share real insight. I’d like to be thought of as a person who has that capacity, who can be open and attentive with/for someone, allowing insight to come forward. I’d like to experience that more too.

  • What are you most grateful for?

    Not a particularly fascinating answer, but more true each day: my children.
    Close second: meditation.
    Friends, books, food, space.

  • What would you most like to know about your true self, or about your future?

    I’d like to know it is all going to be okay in a practical sense (I worry too much lately). I’d like to experience who I am/would be when not restrained by fear or confusion. Perhaps too, I’m ready to be a loving companion.

  • What’s on your bucket list, and what’s holding you back?

    My bucket list is full of travel destinations + countless spontaneous moments of grace and love. Holding me back? On one count, money – resources. On another count, I am on the lookout for and in celebration of those every day!

  • What quality do you wish you had much more of?

    Sheer willpower. Confidence. Sometimes I have courage without confidence, which rarely goes well. πŸ˜‰

  • Who inspires you the most?

    “Most” throws me here. I admire and and am inspired by many people. I’m fortunate to know extraordinary and loving people who are leaving beautiful impressions in the world every second they are alive, and If I dwell on any of them, I feel incredibly full.


  • When in your life were you happiest, and why? What was the biggest turning point, and how did it change you?

    πŸ™‚ This question makes me think of the bath tub scene in The English Patient.

    “When were you happiest?”
    “Now.”
    “When were you least happy?”
    “Now.”

    What springs to mind right away are contented moments: snuggling with new babies or playing with new pets, and meditation/insight experiences (especially those shared with others); awe-striking moments: seeing mountains for the first time, walking with deer in the dark, shooting stars, witnessing moments of deep kindness, writing something beyond myself; and spiritual visions/experiences: when reality and dreams have mixed, like when it felt as though Japan was dreaming me, or guard-down experiences of love.

    Biggest turning point?

    There have been a few, whether one calls them turning points or awakenings. Each has been a re-set to remember what I wrote in an answer earlier: there is nothing but love.

  • What do you most like about yourself? What are you a role model of?

    Curiosity and change. It isn’t that I seek to change, but it naturally happens when you have a questioning personality and are observant/receptive. I genuinely care and extend my heart, appreciate the uniqueness of where people I encounter are coming from, and try to ‘approach anew’ ~ even myself. I can experience different selves concurrently, therefore can imagine different kinds of lives vividly in a pretty seamless ongoing way.

  • What important thing have you changed your mind about?

    I grew up thinking I did not want to have children, for one.

    For another, I’ve traveled through several spiritual expressions in my life, sometimes convinced I had all the answers, other times convinced there were none at all.

appreciation practice

Warm sunlight streams

through soft applause ~

Leaves and branches.

An unidentifiable fragrance

Sallies forth ~

On cool January winds.

Inside,

Sheer white curtains

flutter ~

My thoughts too.

Figs, pears, blueberries

Fresh cream and ginger ~

Brightly green, popping peas.

Alertly sitting on cushions

of glistening rice ~

Evoking fields of water,

and occasional Drops,

of wine.

In this jeweled world

Beauty and sustenance

{like heaven and earth}

Present one feast

Moments
suspending

hands with
moments

Like a grand procession

Sheltered by space,

Known by attention, and

Arising in perfect time.

SBC
March 1, 2015

[A poem I found and enjoyed, even though I wrote it] πŸ˜‰

Use your words

It matters to use our words, to let our voice be heard, no matter how small the context. The gesture matters … the still small voice.

The post I wrote yesterday was uncomfortable for me, even without crossing (current, changing) boundaries or sharing too much. Yet, last night I slept incredibly deeply, without anxiety.

In fact, I dreamed of traveling by bus to a lush green seemingly endless park with towering trees and enormous sections set aside for relaxation and play. One of the sections was similar to photos I’ve seen of ancient temples, overgrown with vines and moss, yet was pristine. Next to that was a children’s area, but far more sophisticated and real in a way I can’t say I’ve encountered much on earth… more enduring somehow.

As the bus passed those places, I had the sense that I’d been there before, while on retreat. I considered how we’d walked the distance easily, although now by bus it seemed to be taking longer.

Then I met a very special-to-me spiritual friend, and delighted, asked him how he had come to arrive at this same place, at this same time. He responded that here was where he had (always) lived. I acted as though I knew that and had meant something else, so he wouldn’t think I’d forgotten, though I had.

I, with all the other travelers along behind, followed him to a village where the structures were two-stories high, open, and woven like baskets. In the upper space I knew to be his his were several small fires with several small covered pots on top.

I began to hear a shaking sound.

He was holding a drum, but an odd drum, large and ball-shaped, covered in netting. Actually, it was similar to an African shekere, but much larger, with a soft rain stick type sound. He was shaking it fast, but hardly seemed to be moving, and came closer to me until I and the drum, the shaking, were one. I felt surrounded, supported, but also as though it was natural to feel that way, without apology.

As my mind tried to go in the direction of anxious thoughts the way it has been doing for months, the gentle energy simply persisted, not stopping my going that way, but giving me a choice, which I appreciated and allowed.

We were back on the bus again after walking him home, which was in a more normal setting, not a village, when someone on the bus next to me remarked that I must be special to special people. They mentioned another spiritual friend who was on the bus, someone just out of sight, and we both tried to describe him… who he was in the world, but could hardly do so, as though he wasn’t quite in the world at all, yet was, too.

When I described the dream to one of my children this morning, they said I’m moving forward, without knowing what I’d written here yesterday. Sometimes the universe responds very fast!

Ah, and Happy Valentine’s Day. ❀

Variations on a Dream

I am walking from ‘the house’ toward the front gate on familiar chipped square tiles. I encounter three ferociously barking rottweilers. They are to the right of the path, in the part of the yard where one of the avocado trees rains down the largest leaves. I feel afraid.
I wake.
—–

I am walking from the house toward the front gate. The light feels different, brighter. I look to the right, and the dogs aren’t there. Maybe they are somewhere else. I’m surprised.
I wake.
—–

I am walking toward the gate, and the dogs aren’t there. I keep
walking. I am noticing more details, more color as I reach the gate. It is not right on its hinges so I lift up the gate itself as I open and lift the handle, and walk through. So tangible. I keep going, out into the street, surprised not to be stopped, where there are three huskies laying around in the road. I look at each of them and see that two are sleeping, but one is wide awake. I look into his eyes – startling blue;
they are my son’s.
—–

The dream above stagnantly recurred for years before I sought out therapy. And then, during that process, began moving into its other progressions.

It stopped when I knew what it was saying… what was trying to make its way through to my psyche: the three huskies were my children, my life now. The hell-hounds were behind me.

I was free to go, but didn’t know.

I experienced a lot of peace after that, and a level of stability that supported a great deal of forgiveness, as though a huge deposit had been made into my emotional account. I’d honored my own story and voice, therefore didn’t need to be understood as much. By making place for it somewhere it wouldn’t hurt anyone else, exposing it to the light, the fear had found correct proportion.

I’m not sure people can forgive by acts of will, but forgiveness is definitely possible.

I’ve been sharing some ways I productive deal with restless feelings lately. It has been amazing how much energy there seems to channel! What I haven’t talked about directly though, is the relentless nighttime anxiety I’ve been experiencing since early last year. I wasn’t sure how to grip the subject, mainly, because I hadn’t thought of it like a recurring dream, nor compared it to the example above–until this week, when I realized how similar it is to terrifying sleep paralysis I experienced as a preteen.

Any kind of dream would lead to being/feeling choked while trying to scream… not able to use my voice. Or, I would half-wake feeling as though I were outside my body and couldn’t get back in. Others who have had these experiences describe hallucinations, actual figures that seem to be in the room on that sleep/wake boundary.

Image result for sleep paralysis
The Nightmare – by Johann Heinrich Fussli

Sleep paralysis experiences have also been called “waking nightmares”

There wasn’t too much information then (there is A LOT now, and a researcher friend has helped to fill fascinating gaps in my knowledge), but while feverishly reading self-help books in the library, trying to get a hold on what was happening, I did become enamored with Carl Jung, relating to the hidden layers of meaning and symbology he described.

Which later led to my developing a longstanding dream practice, and delving into related topics with friends also so inclined.

Perhaps my preoccupation with numerology began then too… always looking for subtext, or a deeper context with which to make sense of things. Sadly for me, unlike various famous figures, this doesn’t seem to have come coupled with mathematical or other genius. πŸ™‚

SO, what is happening now is similar to sleep paralysis: I wake at some point almost every night, in tears or argument. First thing in the morning this greets me too, until I shake off things, memories mostly, that I thought I came to terms with before.

Image result for anxiety dream

A lot of it is physical. The science-y part of me breaks it down this way:

  1. There is a history of panic attacks in my family.
  2. There is a history of barely traceable hypoglycemia as well, which leads to drops in blood sugar during the night, affecting sleep and dreams.
  3. I am in a key age range for hormonal changes, similar to puberty.
  4. Even before some recently upsetting events, I was having work anxiety I couldn’t shake, catastrophizing and exaggerating faults; the anxiety has just switched what it is clinging to.

    * Therefore, one part of my hypothesis is that I need to have some blood work done, see what is off kilter, and fix it.

But as anyone who has experienced these things knows, what the nightmarish phenomenon roots into can also reveal a lot about what one is not facing. Not continuing to ignore … taking the content coming to the surface as a sign it is ready to work with, may yield rewards.

Therefore, add to self-tanning, new make-up techniques, and major overhauls to the way I clean and organize and shop (now I’m doing THRED UP too), that I’ve reached out and have made an appointment with a therapist.

Good for me.

And good for you, doing so too, if you recognize yourself in anything I’ve written here. πŸ™‚

Honoring the Space as Object

Ah hah! Learning about natural-looking spray tan, cute t-shirt tricks, and magic moisturizer brands is fun, and as I wrote before, nicely distracting from terribly serious matters on my mind as of late! BUT, since consciously deciding to linger in a ‘clean slate’ sort of space, I want to be careful not to fill that back up too quickly. It’s not time to shop for all those brands and gadgets Influencers say are must-haves, like Paula’s Choice exfoliant, yet!

Instead, it’s time to peel some of the attention away from Beauty You-Tube, toward Cleaning You-Tube, and Zero-Waste You-Tube!

I know, how glamorous. πŸ˜‰ But really it is all the same thing… playing and experimenting to find what feels good, what elevates daily life.

One thing people might be surprised to know about me, is that I did a fair bit of apartment cleaning when young. It was a natural second or third job to pick up, because I grew up doing a lot of general cleaning of what was not at all an easy house, what with its old cabinets and counters, terrazzo floors, and pine walls. When I began cleaning for others, it surprised me how few people knew how to clean their own spaces, or found satisfaction in doing so, and therefore, how large my own bang-for-buck could be. There would be so much appreciation for something I hardly thought about at all, and more money than average for 2 to 3 hours of work.

It was spiritual work, too. At the time I was fairly religious, often meeting my clients through church, and would spend the cleaning time also singing or praying. That was an early imprint for me actually, the sound of my great-grandmother singing and praying as she worked around the house, so it was a natural pattern to fall into that I didn’t think much about at the time.

Image result for snow white cleaning"

Then, how did I arrive to the place where I found myself at the beginning of this year, madly scrolling through cleaning service companies online? I don’t know. Everything had just slipped. I looked around and felt the weight of things not cared for well. This is a feeling I think many people try to fill with shopping, and maybe a tendency I was quickly falling into as well, but buying new things only distracts for a while when what you are really going for is the cumulative contented feeling of daily care. That’s something – that something in you – can feel regardless of the status of a surrounding.

So, for the third time in my life, I asked a service in to help.

It felt great to arrive home with things done, everything smelling nicely (usually I can’t smell any difference, since I’m immersed!) but I can’t say I felt in the end, that it would be worthwhile to spring for such regularly. Rather, I’d rather learn some new space and cleaning tricks, adding on to my 2020 Resolutions!

I guess I feel, why not. I’m still staying busy, but turning it just a little more inward.

Some little things I’ve learned so far:

1 – As with wardrobes and beauty, cleaning methods become outdated. THE TWIST is, in our time, most methods need to be updated BACKWARD. In many instances, we can learn more from our grandparents and even great-grandparents’ generation, than from our parents’, because the availability of newer and newer and shinier and shinier things that last shorter and shorter periods of time, is the wave most have ridden. I know that in my own upbringing, even when we were struggling financially, buying generic groceries or second-hand clothing was just not done.

Maybe sometime I’ll write about the odd balances I grew up with in terms of status and outward impressions, versus the reality. I was thinking this morning about how often as a teen friends would dress me… how I wore a borrowed top to take my 11th grade school photo, a borrowed dress on my first real date with my later-to-be (first) husband… and how when I ran into a friend in college she said to me, “I never realized you were poor like us.” I hadn’t either, actually.

It was one of the things that I loved about that same husband’s family – that it was the reverse. They shopped in thrift stores and skimped like a family just coming out of WWII, but they also took trips and traveled to see one another, kept up the family camp retreat. Not that there weren’t downsides to their way of life too, but in our time of growing consciousness about the effects of mindless wastefulness, there is much to learn and appreciate from their model, which I have and do.

Of course, there is a lot to glean from both, which I hope my children find better ways of living than I have so far. BUT, I’m working on it, as you see.

Anyway…

By the third video I gravitated toward, I realized my apartment was full of terrible chemicals that had always felt like compromises, but which I thought I couldn’t do without because I’d never seen it done any other way. I mean, when I use straight bleach to clean things, I’m likely to feel ill for days afterward, but I still use it! Or did. I’m going to try to forego bleach from now on, in favor of baking soda, castile soap (my new obsession), vinegar + essential oils. So far various combinations of these ingredients are working better than fine, but you have to use the right instrument, or leave things soaking a bit longer. Another big tip is: don’t give up too fast!

(Isn’t it interesting how all these cleaning tips are also life tips? Funny how that works. πŸ˜‰ )

2 – Beware even of brands that use eco-friendly labels! “Greenwashing”, a term I learned from You-Tuber and environmental scientist Shelbizleee, is everywhere!

A few years ago, a friend began to sell Norwex products, and most of them have been fantastic, eliminating the need to use lots of paper towels especially. Still, I somehow categorized in my mind that daily tidying and deep cleaning were different, so the Norwex products have come in alongside my keeping the others mostly. They did make a significant dent, since so many of their items need just water to work, but I still fell into a sort of self-satisfied complacency.

Phase II is about putting products using eco-friendly labels (a standard that is NOT regulated in the US), under a more powerful microscope!

“Let it go… let it go…”

3 – On a site called Clean My Space, I was reminded that gathering all the tools in one place cuts down time, therefore cuts down the tendency toward procrastination. This goes for anything, but I’m terrible about it. My toolbox consists of a battered Prada shoe box, and you can find random cleaners in every cabinet that I have to go on a scavenger hunt into each time.

This falls under the category of “I already know that!” I just don’t DO that. πŸ™‚ Maybe you don’t either?

There’s more, of course, but I’ll end at the importance of:

4 – Basking in the feeling of completion at the end! We’re all too often on to the next thing, but one way to be motivated to do things well and to finish, is to pause and appreciate having followed through when you do it. This may be especially important for tasks, like cleaning, which others do not usually see, which there is no fanfare for.

I, like a lot of people, find inspiration in Japanese or French going against the grain when it comes to what is thought to be refined or beautiful, and when I really stopped to consider what it is, that quality… I found that appreciation, dwelling on the whole context rather than one part that may feel to fall short, etc., has a lot to do with it.

The term wabi-sabi, for instance points to not trying to hide injury or imperfection – to acknowledging the full life of an object once it has set out and become part of the world, not giving up on it so quickly. Everyone has seen the photo of the tea cup repaired with gold (a technique called kintsugi) that actually emphasizes the broken places.

Recently, I added to my reference saori weaving, which is the technique of weaving remnants and scraps into a piece, or constructing the entire piece from threads broken away from their original purpose.

The main thing is, in the new context, the sense becomes that those fragments have already always been in the right place. Spending time to make it so, is perhaps paradoxically, still important.

Photo from American Swedish Institute, advertising a new class.

For me this means honoring the end point, declaring, by finding flowers for the cleaned space, or lighting a candle, or putting on music… something to respond to/thank the environment, and the one (now previous you, also part of the environment) who offered their (imperfect, broken) resources and time.

The Blank Slate

As you see, bolder formatting is temporarily gone from this site. I’ve stripped it down while making changes, but also to symbolize my current state.

In meditation this morning, the theme of faith arose. Unkind thoughts were present – an argument I’ve been having with someone for as long as I can remember… feelings of injustice, betrayal, silencing. But, rather than get deeper into the argument, I could see how it had affected my trust levels in relationships, and how much of ‘me’ it had defined.

I would say, “I’d let it define”, but that wouldn’t be accurate. It is more like, my quest to resolve or escape it has, both knowingly and unknowingly, defined key interpretations.

As can happen in meditation, I could experience the argument as an object of attention, one of various, a wheel spinning off in the corner somewhere, bigger or smaller, taking up more or less space. And I could ask, “Help me let this go.”

Who was I asking? Who was the I, asking? Worthwhile questions, but distractions in this context, because more important is the asking itself and the imagining… the feeling of the possibility of that wheel no longer spinning so fast, defining so much.

I think this imagining, at the point at which ‘I’ runs out, or intersects, is faith, and where across religious/spiritual disciplines and schools of thought, there may mustard seed sized agreement. It is a bit like a blank slate itself.

REALLY SHALLOW STUFF

Okay! So, after several deeper posts about coming to terms with loss and the complexities of relationships, I thought to share some REALLY SHALLOW STUFF, truly skin-deep! Sound fun? I hope so, since that is what is about to happen. πŸ˜‰

The other day I shared that my biggest antidote for over-thinking and malaise these days, is taking on a rather physical job. It has been the kind of decision that ends up being a surprise box of interesting effects health-wise, and in my case, turning my quite inward orientation —> outward.

All day I ask, “What can I do for YOU?” And, I love that.

However, being outward every day *does* continually expose a lot of the ways I have been, not just behind-the-times in terms of physical presentation, but honestly neglectful with things like make-up and jewelry specifically. I used to spend a lot of time as an ultra stylish avatar named Eliza, channeling most my whimsy into her, but even she would often settle into her typist’s default mood!

Eliza, attending a gathering in Second Life

Many of us become stuck, style-wise, inside the era in which we come of age, but for me, I think I became stuck in my mid-90s reaction to the BIG 80s LOOK AT MY HAIR AND BRIGHT COLORS AND SUPERSIZED EARRINGS AND TINY WAIST AND HIGH HEELS… a gentle hangover that has lasted now a very long time. To that end, I settled into a mostly clean face (minimal make-up) and straight hair look, usually with variations of black and white clothing and flat or simple shoes.

Actually (and this will tell you how easily-influenced I can be!), I think I entrained upon Vera Wang after seeing an early interview with the designer in which she was wearing a simple pair of black pants and black top. She credited her simplicity of focus on herself, at least in part, for her great creative inspiration with wedding gowns. She seemed quite Audrey or Jacqueline, to me, IOW: timeless, as though style was a decision one could make once for themselves and be done with it. πŸ™‚

[Aside: A moment ago, I searched “Vera Wang simplicity” to see if I could find a photo of her look now, only to find Simplicity is the name of her dinnerware. I also read an article in which she praises comfort as her guiding style principle, but it is the sort of comfort that includes car-priced jackets. ;-)]

What I’ve realized now, is that updating my look, at least in small ways, can no longer be an idea that passes through a few times a year. Also, playing with ideas in this way, test-driving them out on the road, is becoming pretty fun. I’ve gone from scoffing at the very idea of Instagram “influencers”, thinking of them as just swimsuit models hired for events like Fyre Festival, to watching endless “7 Tips” type videos from YouTube stars like Shea Whitney.

Shea’s all about luxury, has a closet the size of my entire 3-bedroom rented apartment, and seems to spend more in handbags per month than I have for clothing in the course of oh, five+ years(!), BUT, she’s entertaining to watch and gives lots of genuinely good advice for people in just my predicament.

My next thing will probably be SPRAY TAN. πŸ˜€ Hear me out …

Back in those 80s I mentioned before, we would do horrible things to our skin, like sitting out in the blazing Florida sun for hours wearing baby oil, or sitting under sun laps with Sun-In all over our hair. Going back to school after the summer, or even a long weekend, without peeling skin on nose and shoulders, was even (at least for my silly peer-group), somewhat embarrassing!

Image result for 80s fake tan ads

Then came the 90s, and news that doing what we were doing was sure to not just age us before our time, but actually KILL us, which pushed many out of tanning beds and off the beaches unless we were donning hats and 30 SPF. Companies started working harder to perfect spray tans so that we didn’t have to be orange to be sun-kissed (some <ahem> public figures haven’t gotten this message yet), and it was then that I began to spray tan my legs lightly as a really good substitute for the nylons we were also beginning to go without.

Somewhere along the way though, spray tanning technology became really high-quality, which felt like a crossroad: either I was going to have to begin to spend money to have it done right, or just forego. I forewent. Which was FINE, especially since back then I didn’t have the thinning skin beneath my eyes that can give me a sort of happy skeleton look under the kind of lighting they use at work, and the family cellulite hadn’t yet struck with force.

Spray tan is such a shallow topic isn’t it? But, doesn’t it feel fun to be so frivolous, at least some of the time? If so, there’s probably more to come, on things like dry shampoo and 5 day hair wash fasting, peppermint puckered lips, and tucks and buttons. I’m planning on doing a lot of happy experimenting, including with my writing here. πŸ™‚

One Day

I’ve been rather (overly?) ‘thought’ful in my writing here of late. So much has been on my mind that I’m not sure whether or how to talk about, and until I am sure, I’ve decided to try to work it out in other ways.

Retail work has been the most surprising of those ways… getting on a train I don’t step off of for hours, setting aside worries and all other options/choices. Goodbye, scrolling Twitter until I think, “What time is it?”, Goodbye, “looking for something to watch on TV.” After having a flexible schedule for many years, this structure feels incredibly freeing to me, comforting in the way I imagine weighted blankets are comforting to people who liked to be tucked in at night as children (not me – I always needed a leg or at least foot outside of my blanket).

Choiceless, in a good way.

I’m fairly suited to the kind of work I’m doing, thankfully, at least in most ways, on most days. I can get the sort of ‘hit’ of feelings of youth that I imagine some people get from watching a sport they played in high school.

With this one decision (and the company’s decision to hire me), I solved at least three big puzzles that were fast becoming problems prior:
weight gain (I’ve lost 8 lbs. so far and hit my 10,000 steps mark almost every day);
eye-to-eye starvation (Most of my daily conversations had become typed or mitigated by social media, which is way too comfortable a zone for me, not being especially verbal); and,
putting my ethics into practice.

That last one is hugely important, so let me elaborate…

In the Taoist ox-herding tale, there is seeking and striving up the mountain, and a time of retreat that can look like one has finally arrived. My spiritual life–alongside, but sometimes consuming, the rest–has been a mix of those modes: lots of (almost constant) study, retreat, giving up whatever seemed in the way of devotion–‘working’ to trust the flow and truth of insight and intuition. To that end, unimaginally wonderful friends and teachers have appeared all over the mountain as I’ve wandered … people deeper and happier than any I’d before encountered, sharing similar longings and a language of play-beyond-words… celebrating the enoughness of ‘what is’.

Finding these places, these people, has often felt like validation of my deepest needs and calling, and of course, one would want to stay… would want to do whatever it took to stay, including bring others along. On the mountain I learned of a million bright and open eyes, countless ways of seeing and being seen, and how to find thin places where distance, manipulations and lies, have no meaning at all, present no barrier (“How can a mantis block the road?”).

Yes, like visiting Heaven, or, more comfortable imagery for me: a land of Buddha fields.

DesignAquatica

As I traveled though, I always suspected there might come a time when my go-to’s would no longer work… when I wouldn’t be able to retreat and study myself into a blissful mind palace state of grace over and over again. Truth be told, as much as I have loved and desired that, I have also wanted to be drawn from… to serve… to pour myself out completely so that I could really rest, “one day.”

And lately, I simply show up to meet the moment. I don’t control where I am or who I encounter, for hours of most days, and often can’t fully classify a good day from a bad. I am ‘snapped out’ of my story-telling and ruminating, over and over again until that movement works its way into my body, giving my mind to whatever the apparent situation may draw out. It isn’t exactly that I’ve come down from the mountain nor left the quest behind, but that all those books and sutras and sessions and endless audios have become a kind of inward architecture… more perhaps, Rumi’s Guest House.

“Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.”

(Coleman Barks translation)

There may be a shift here, from reading to being read, which I like to think may be a true culmination of practice, moving into living lucidly, spontaneously as true default… inhabiting a certain quality of mind. I’m still a little concerned I’ve managed to find just a new way of avoidance, but it seems to be where/how the aliveness has moved, sweeping me into a new phase of exploration.

I even feel some of that here, coming back to my fingers. Dare I hope?

And dare I hope that just situating myself where Life seems to want me, might also matter to ‘the world’ – a ‘coming back’ gesture of belief in Basic Goodness… a better collaboration?

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