In the mind.

On my last drive up north I was reading The Sun, a publication that has been in my life since I was a child. Since receiving my very own gift subscription, this magazine has followed me through ten different addresses, nine new tattoos, the time I cut all my hair off, when I met Elizabeth, Patchy Sanders, the time(s) I cut half my hair off, when I returned home after 10 years of being away, when I adopted my dog, and almost every drive north to Toolik.

Although this reflection could open all sorts of interesting paths to write down, I opened this little thought train with The Sun because a reader contributed a quote in this most recent issue that struck me:

“What is heaven? What is hell? In the mind.” – Jack Kerouac

Kerouac very succinctly described a concept I have been considering and turning around and examining for months now. Although this idea was first introduced with my dive into meditation, it has more recently surfaced because of experiences with my current partner.

Jason and I often see situations, conversations, and shared experiences very differently. In brief, he often views an interaction in a practical, logical way, while I see our interactions in an emotional, subjective way. We can be in the same room, having a conversation, holding hands, by all appearances having the “same experience,” yet when we reflect later we may have interpreted that interaction in completely different ways. What is most striking to me is when I have viewed the interaction as incredibly connecting, or incredibly disconnecting, while he may have viewed the interaction in a much more neutral way.

This recurring pattern got me thinking about personal realities. How diverse are the realities we carry with us in our minds? Can we ever really see an experience the same way as someone else? Perhaps most interestingly to me, once we realize how unique and subjective our personal realities are, are we ready to bear the weight of that responsibility? In other words, can we be fully ready to assume all responsibility for how external occurrences affect us? Can we take responsibility to work diligently on altering our personal reality to one that is harmonious, peaceful, content, and serves our community/world? Can we live intelligently?

It can be easy to blame the outside for what’s rising up on the inside, but it leads to a flat, static living. What would happen in your life if you developed full awareness that you are the only one steering your ship? What would happen if you established full certainty that it is only you creating your happiness, your misery?

I suspect a dramatic blossoming!!

Photo credit here.

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Some small thoughts, like droplets in my mind.

Certainly, the emotion that most impedes progress in any endeavor is the emotion of fear. When I feel fear, it is a quickening in my heart, a sharpness in my in breath, a closing in of my mind. The world becomes smaller as my fears expand. Lately, I’ve been turning to the trees, looking up to the highest leaves and beyond to the clouds and sky. The world starts to expand again, and my breath slows, and my heart stills.

Certainty is what we seek. The feeling of uncertainty is most, most uncomfortable. When I’m uncertain, it can be incredibly difficult to elucidate 1) what I’m uncertain about, specifically; 2) how to handle myself in my uncertainty; and 3) how to feel certain once more. Maybe it’s impossible to ever really feel certain, but it’s important to attempt.

A realization from last night’s walk: when my dog runs up to me with her tail circling wildly, her eyes bright and wide, and her tongue launching wet gobs of happy saliva, it is briefly impossible to feel uncertain.

Next year I will be thirty. My friend Claire calls it “the magic of turning thirty.” I think I know what she means. There seems to be a noticeable difference between those women still meandering about in their twenties and those regal thirty-something ladies lounging on self-confident sofas. Six more months of aimless wandering before the beautifully consistent straight-and-narrow. Am I being too optimistic?

“The most difficult times for many of us are the ones we give ourselves.” – Pema Chödrön

Photo credit here.

Changing the habit pattern of the mind

She woke up this morning before her alarm, as she often does. The loud birds were chorusing outside the window, tiny birds perched on oak branches. She lay there for some time. When her alarm sounded, she knew she wanted to lay in bed longer. She thought about coffee, and she felt happy. The unexpected voice of a dear friend was traveling its way from the kitchen to her bedroom, and she got up to investigate. The friend’s voice explained that he didn’t in fact drive home last night, as there was a tree on the road near the locked gate. All her friends drank coffee. The friend with the voice watched her as she stood on an outside table and played music, as he had watched her many times before. She thought she saw deep emotion in his eyes.

She was full of energy this morning, and happy. Life felt easy. She knew this wouldn’t always be the case, that one day she would feel challenged again, but she nevertheless enjoyed the moments of the morning: the shower and the coffee and snuggling a squishy, heavy, five-year-old girl in her arms.

Lately, the habit pattern of her mind has been of great interest to her. The curiosity is centered around fear of failure. The fear of failure is deep, deep. It has controlled her life for a long time, a menacing pilot seated in the nut of her consciousness. She has faced that fear in a very intimate way many times since the beginning of the year. She has woken up terrified that she would fail. She was perhaps more afraid that she would fail because she was too afraid to really try.

Letting habit patterns out to breathe is how she relaxes them. For weeks now she has gently massaged this habit pattern of the mind, talking with trusted friends, writing it all down, trying to logically piece this puzzle together. It is important to her to feel that she has tried her best. It is important to her to learn how to fail gracefully. It is important to her to recognize the gift of perseverance. And she is realizing that she can consciously change the habit pattern of her mind.

She sees that fear and love are two sides of the same coin, that failure and success are two sides of another coin, and that effort and ease are two sides of a third. She knows that comfort with failure means bravery in pursuing opportunity.

Overall, she is so grateful to be growing older, and learning more, and loving more. She is even excited by the gray hairs inspired by all this experience!

She felt radiant, clean, and well-fed. She left her friends and came into town. She tried on clothes with a dear friend, lots of clothes. She looked at herself in the large mirrors and noticed: her butt, her legs, her belly, her hair, her nose and smile and eyebrows in profile. She found an excellent pair of jeans. After dinner with yet another friend, she flew northward and reflected on her journey, how much can change in such a short time while nothing really changes at all.

mind art

Kill the critic

Late last night, after symphony rehearsal, I was talking to my sweet boyfriend. He was asking me questions about what goes on in my mind, the habits of my mind. I told him about the inner critic, about how my inner world can be completely uncoupled from my outer world. How the outside can be so beautiful and fulfilling, yet my mind can feel so diseased. I had never been asked such pointed questions about my mind in such a curious, kind way.

Jason asked me how long the inner critic has existed, how long I’ve had to manage this voice to stay focused and move through my days. I said since the beginning of college, when I left home at 18.

He paused for a moment, smiled deviously, and said, “kill the critic.”

Ahh! Kill the critic, instead of manage it. Kill it, instead of giving it room to have a say.

He continued: “kill it with confidence.” Confidence in my ability as a student scientist, my violin performance, my physical body, that I’m a good person.

This feels exciting to me. External validation that my critic is unnecessary, and I can feel free to kill it. You can feel free too! I give you permission. It’s a total drag to have an inner critic, but thrillingly, you don’t need it. Imagine the possibilities!

 

lotus