All the little things and past things

When I first came out of therapy years ago, I had the sense of it being merely a stepping stone to the higher way (meditation) I’d discovered within that self exploration. Whereas therapy would often leave me feeling drained and sad, resigned, meditation and contemplative study generally elevated my mood and stirred up innate playfulness. I laughed more, and felt empowered, as though “all the little things and past things” were put into a wider, even cosmic, context.

Which was (is) true.

But, as a wise (and I don’t use that word lightly) teacher often suggested, something else may also be true. Although more playful and certainly more attentive, in many ways I continued to bypass hard decisions, with some feeling of permission to skip various life-lesson type classes, when actually there wasn’t.

So, I may have put my finger on what ‘else is true’ this morning, and it has to do with second-arrow suffering.

Second-arrow suffering is a Zen concept I think, used to illustrate the way we have pain in our lives (non-optional) and suffering which we add to it by our interpretations and attached scripts (optional). The general idea is that when we are hit with an arrow, which we will be, it is definitely painful. However, at the moment of that hit, we can become more aware, thereby dodging the second arrow on its way, or deflecting it.

We shouldn’t fall into the trap of blaming and weakening ourselves while initially addressing the wound, searching for causes, or even catching the culprits. Rather, the first arrow can wake us up. We can become more aware of our surroundings, and our position within them. When we lean into meditative awareness rather than employing distraction or reaction, a path of expanded perception may appear, lighting up various responses or escape routes that had been hidden before.

We may actually get to safety and heal, using appropriate measures. Then, we can consciously respond. Eventually, a cultivated meditative stance may even ward off future injuries, as we dodge or deflect quite a few of the first arrows, too.

So, what did I realize today? For many of us, there may be injuries we sustained way before we had coping skills… wounds we were forced to live with, walk on, and often to hide… injuries we simply couldn’t have addressed properly before. Those wounds may still be tender, hard to reach, covered over and mistaken for other things, which may make it hard to know what can or should be addressed or given the cosmic perspective treatment. Deeper avoidance patterns may require outside help, just as persistent pain in a shoulder may mean that a physical therapist should be called in.

In my case, I seem to have missed key moments for learning discernment and accurate boundaries along the way, so need a therapist’s trained eyes and tools to guide me into clearer functioning… so I can begin to parse what was first arrow and what was second, what will benefit treatment versus what I could just work with, accepting (and helping others to accept too) the quirk or the discomfort.

Again with the aim of fewer first arrows and friendly fires. πŸ™‚ The desire stems from the desire to live a happier life, from an optimism I’m sure there would not be if not for the spaciousness developed in meditation.

It does make a difference that the two therapists I’ve really worked with have been contemplative people themselves. They notice little things, such as my ability to shift into that wider mind, which my therapist pointed out today, encouraging me to see as “progress”. Such a little thing, but it contributed a lot to my being able to then come here and try to flesh out this little insight.

❀

Just visiting

A note stuck to my computer reads, “I hope you’re well, and that the new year will be kind to you.”

It is a line that seems personal, as though taken from a longer letter, but was pulled from a 2010 contemplative workshop chat log. It was the start of 2020, and I’d been hurt. I needed to remember the feeling of being seen and guided, rooted to a more timeless, less society-bound vision, less swept up in the struggles of the day.

Rock and water garden. Kyoto, Japan. Heian Shrine.

That’s the way I think I felt in 2010. We were a few years into the Obama presidency, I was to-my-ears involved with work that was both meaningful to me on a surface level and rooted in a higher contemplative aspiration, and I was beginning to execute decisions I’d been frightened to make, emerging from a deep stagnation.

And this voice held kindness, like a still smooth stone in a gushing stream, reminding me that whatever else was going on, wasn’t exactly as real as whether I was becoming a kind and present person or not.

They changed my point of focus, which eased my heart.

I have many estrangements in my life, sadly, but also tremendous fortune of enduring, while subtle, encounters… dreams becoming people becoming dreams again, as though we aren’t exactly meant fit into each others’ lives in a finite way. Always just visiting.

Sometimes, when I can find an edge of that and settle in with appreciation, without trying to pin relationship down to definition or timeline, an infinite field appears.

It is enough.

Pain and Transformation

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

I didn’t vote for Donald Trump, but many who did, reasoned that if there were a serious challenge, even he would rise to the occasion. Yet an almost intentional failure has happened precisely because our system prides itself on having breathing room to take reckless risks.

“We the people” have such faith in our checks and balances! We have such blind trust that we go on with life as usual in the face of ridiculous antics and entirely transparent circus shows from those with power (we give them), believing an invisible good will beneath it all will eventually break through.

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

Wisdom comes through unlikely places, and last night a little came through for me while watching Better Call Saul, a show based on a side character in Breaking Bad. Better Call Saul is a less brutal show than Breaking Bad, but deals with the same gritty Shakespearean themes. Whereas Walter White was a good guy until given the pressure and opportunity to reveal otherwise, Saul is assumed to be helplessly shady, and falls into the same disruptive patterns over and over again.

But we still root for him. Which seems so… American.

I think we root for the playfulness, his dancing on the edge. Life has dealt him a raw deal and in a twisted way, he’s making Art out of it. We could see him as a crazy wisdom character, alchemizing suffering. Still, we’re aware every second, that we’re watching a tragedy unfold.

I loved this last episode… seeing just how blatant a con-man Saul can be, how adeptly and shamelessly he is wields his rage against a giant force. I was delighted as he pulled one rabbit after another out of his proverbial hat, because that’s where the difference between the two characters (Walter White/Saul Goodman) reveals itself most strongly.

Talent appears in service to something for both characters, but perhaps Saul’s pain, therefore his motive, is more pure? A character like that can be endearing.

But are we also locked in to a larger tragedy unfolding, in our time? Could this be a peek at the script? I find this pandemic, as horrible as it is (and it is, which is hard to feel when buffered by our creature comforts and internet), to be a warning shot.

Stop… pay attention now. We can still change.

So many in my country have a romantic sensibility of the pioneering West as a vast open land where individuality can flourish, and bad taste too, if it chooses. 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? If I don’t vaccinate my kids that’s on me, and the consequences are mine.

Someone who sees the world this way could indeed vote for what a Donald Trump appeared and sometimes appears to be. They might see themselves as the man Saul seems to be standing up for against the impenetrable interests whittling away at their lives, by using whatever ridiculous antics it takes.

But see, in the end, Saul doesn’t really care about that man. The character is just on his own side. His pain doesn’t carry some grand transformative vision. I think that is the end of the story, tragic though it may be.

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 of us are gleaning the larger part of our information and practice instructions online.

When we 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 immediately there to help hold awareness of ‘the whole’ of a life as we focus on bringing forth changes, making it difficult or even impossible to integrate the new knowledge and ways of being. Although uberconnected, it can be like going into a tunnel, with reception scrambled a while.

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

The thing about this point in the journey is that to discard the old 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.