The Happiness Manifesto Blog

How I Beat the Living Hell Out of Suffering and Made It My Bitch

Archive for the tag “energy”

The Vision Quest

I have come to understand that my current state of existence is me experiencing a vision quest of sorts.  I have grown increasingly isolated:  one undertakes vision quests alone.  I have become increasingly detached from things of this world.  I am seeking my raison d’être.  I keep tearing aspects of self down, then building anew, then tearing down, then building anew, and every time the tearing down goes deeper and the building up goes higher.  I don’t need to be under a drug’s influence to feel the euphoric highs when I have an epiphany, and the crushing lows when I am unearthing old wounds and limiting beliefs, swimming in the mire of wretchedness: that’s just been my life, as of late.  I have the distinct sense that when I finally emerge, I will be better equipped to serve the world.

And it’s hard as hell.

I better be a fucking amazing Druid after this.  And I better have my home.  This tree-hugger needs to put down roots next to some tree friends.  You hear me, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs?  Fuck you.  I kill you.  I kill you two times.

Yes, I am threatening the well-being of psychological concepts.  Because that’s how I roll.

To the nemeton!

 

NaPoWriMo XI

Yes, I am a negligent poet.  I apologize.  It seems every spring I melt into a puddle of goo just as everyone else is emerging from hiatus.  I seem to be backward to about every natural rhythm in the *world*.  I am a special ass snowflake.  And here is a poem about it! 😉

 

 

While nature emerges from the cold, dark, damp

I hibernate from the world

With every bud and blossom

I descend deeper into the morass

When did this reverse engineering take hold?

Must I succumb

To the tired convention of the despondent artist?

Must writing come from wretchedness?

I wonder, as words crash together in my head

Only I fear that instead of discovering creation,

I have instead been pulled into

Their black hole.

NaPoWriMo VI

I stand beneath the waterfall, the miracle of indoor plumbing

And watch as the dirt and crusted blood

From old wounds washes away

In the torrent of cleansing

I scrub at the floors

Dust every shelf

Burn sage in an old glass jar and watch

The smoke curl as I fan it with a feather

I eat green, healthy, real foods

Soak in a mineral bath

Release negativity through my pores and

Shed some of that protective layer we call fat

I dress myself in ritual garb

Bells jingling against my bare foot

I am prepared to face

The rest of eternity

I open the front door

Thank You

So I have been a lover of the law of attraction and everything it represents for a while now.  And while I’ve had my ups and downs, my “oops!” moments and my “aha!” moments, I’ve been slowly moving forward, making incremental progress, learning some hard lessons and seeing deeper into myself than I ever could have imagined going in.  Last night was another one of those massive info dumps that feels so much like a meteor crashed into my mind planet, and my ecosystem is going to have to rebuild itself again.

If you’ve been reading for any length of time, it’s quite obvious that I am obsessed with making a home of my own.  Whether that’s a tiny house on wheels, a cob house, a beautiful old Craftsman bungalow… I just feel this inner longing for *home* the way that normal women who don’t, as Margaret Cho put it, ovulate sand might long for children.  I cry about it – a lot.  Not like, oh boo hoo, I want a fancy house to be a status symbol cry, but deep, profound sadness that can only be described as being adrift on a violent ocean, yearning for home.  I want my safe harbor.  I *need* safe harbor.  My ship has broken apart in the storm.

As much as I have tried to be positive about it, I’ve struggled.  I’ve done all the envisioning exercises I could think of – I printed out house listings I was in love with and hung them up where I could see them; I bought a few books on tiny house building and a couple of small tools that I didn’t already have as gestures that I was going to DO this; I bought beautiful vintage light switch covers to put in my new home; I said mantras like “I have everything I need and want available to me.”  And by the way, when you are paying for groceries with pennies from the penny jar and behind on rent, dropping $10 on a tool you don’t need yet is a big deal.  I thought I was sending clear signals of faith to the universe, so things were sure to happen!  And yet.  I would look at those house listings and think, good things like that don’t happen to you.  Other people get to have a home of your dreams, but not you.  I felt like I was torturing myself a little.  Real estate was already way beyond my income – and it’s only been getting more expensive.  But I kept looking at it.

I would get bitter about how easy it seemed other people had it – either now or in the past.  My most teeth-gnashing knowledge was that when my parents were my age, my father earned more at his job, with only a high school diploma, than I have ever earned in my life (and I’m not talking about inflation-adjusted dollars – I mean in unchanging numbers), plus they had my mother’s income as well.  He wasn’t a great employee – I grew up hearing tales of he and his friends going out drinking during their extended lunch breaks and going back to the office sloshed, or sometimes not going back at all (and yet, no one got fired for this, while I’ve been fired for showing up to start my shift ten minutes late one time too many).  With the gobs of money (in my eyes) from his dial-it-in job, he bought a two-bedroom house that cost five thousand dollars less than he made in a year, in a nice neighborhood in the suburbs.  Cars cost a few grand.  And yet, due largely to his gambling habits, my parents lost everything – the house, the car, everything.  When opportunity after opportunity had been handed to them as a gift from on high, they squandered it.  And it pissed me the fuck off.

Now, I get that it pissed me off because it’s all a matter of perspective.  To a kid that lives in a shanty town made of cardboard and spends their days fetching water from three miles away and can’t go to school, I’m the one who has had opportunity after opportunity handed to me as a gift from on high.  Just as to my parents, it wasn’t a big deal to have what they had – jobs were plentiful and stuff was cheap; the economy was good and don’t all the Mad Men drink cocktails in the office?  Normal!  Why would they have seen it any differently?  But I was so angry.  That anger said, I wouldn’t squander those blessings if I had them.  I wouldn’t take them for granted!

Which was all just a great big block to me ever getting any kind of blessings that I dreamed of.

Now, I tried gratitude exercises – but I felt like I was giving thanks for largely little things.  Somehow I thought that would translate into big things.  Well, it didn’t.  Because I was thinking of them as little things.  Hence the incremental progress instead of large leaps forward in the physical realm.

I tried making myself feel like I already had the thing I wanted – and envision it in detail.  I was good at the envisioning.  I am a writer/artist, after all.  I came up with house design after house design after house design.  I thought, this is the one!  I’m going to get some money, and build this house.  I did it with cars, too – you can see the Smart Car picture in an earlier post from me going to their website and designing the one I wanted.

But did I feel like I actually owned that house?  Despite all my mantras, no, I did not.  The car?  Not that, either.  For a long time, I was sad when I saw cars that I liked – I felt like I was being teased with something I couldn’t have again.

For the past several months, I have been sending out love when I see a car I like (for the record, Universe, that’s Smart Cars, VW bugs, Mini Coopers, and Subaru hatchback station wagons.  Yes, I have to have the one big car outlier, because that’s how I roll).  Now it’s not forced, and I honestly smile when I see one and feel like the Universe is smiling back at me instead of teasing me.  It’s saying, “Hey look, here’s that cool thing you like!”  So I feel a lot better on that front.  But I was still at a loss as to how I was going to earn the money (because that’s what I was focused on) to build or buy my dream home… or my dream car.  The writing muse has been flirting with me but I don’t have a book near completion.  No publishers have responded to my short stories or found my blog and said, “Hey, we like your writing!  Want a book contract?”  I wasn’t hearing back anything from jobs I had applied to.  I didn’t suddenly have a sewing tutorial or cat video go viral on YouTube.  I wasn’t selling out of inventory at craft fairs or Etsy, or having people beating down my door to buy Beachbody products en masse.  So, barring a lotto win (I probably buy a ticket once every two months or so), I couldn’t see a way out.  It was “I need,” and “I want” …which is, say it with me, NOT what you should be thinking if you are trying to attract things to you.

In other words, I was dialing in my manifestation efforts, like I had always felt my dad had a dial it in job.  I was saying what I wanted but not feeling it.  I was faking it ‘til I made it.  I was smiling on the outside but crying on the inside.  But just like they say, if you smile even when you don’t feel like it, the action will often lead to you honestly feeling happy.  Well, the project-positivity-project has finally taken root, and I truly do feel positive about my life and the future.

What brought this on?  Well, I’ve been reading lots of books on manifestation, the law of attraction, and “new thought,” as they call it.  One of the pillars of these teachings is that you have everything available to you in the universe.  If it exists, you can manifest it.  If you can dream it, it exists.  “Hold,” you say.  “What about people who dreamed up things that never existed before, like inventors?”  Well, those inventions were made, weren’t they?  The components for anything you can ever dream are there – we just have to lasso them in.  The elements that made the resources that made the parts that made the first computer always existed – it’s just that no one put all those things together to create it until it was first imagined and designed, the international trade network was there, and prior inventions that were necessary for its creation – like electricity being harnessed – had been realized.

I understood this premise on an intellectual level, but I didn’t know it in my bones.  I didn’t feel like, okay, I have access to anything, my abundance is limitless, the world is my oyster!  Mantra after mantra did not seem to be infusing it into my core any more than I can learn through osmosis.

Last night was the shift that changed everything.

What triggered it?  Another Rhonda Byrne book?  Source material?  A great meditation session?  Nope.  It was one of those viral videos full of NASA footage, stirring music, and Neil deGrasse Tyson talking about how we are all stardust.

I had seen videos like that before – in fact, I think I had even heard that particular quote by Neil deGrasse Tyson before.  I loved them both, and thought they were beautiful at the time.  But just like sometimes, you read a book for the second time and all new things jump out at you, or it speaks to you in an entirely different way as you are at a different place in your life, this video hit me like a ton of bricks.  And I cried (this post is full of crying, isn’t it?  I swear I am not a geyser 24/7).  But it wasn’t “I’m sad,” crying, or even “I yearn,” crying – it was understanding crying.  It was feeling connected with everything and everyone in the universe crying.  It was a beautiful moment crying.  It was gratefulness crying.  I actually felt it.  It was a spiritual experience.  I felt myself expanding.

And in that moment, I truly, for the first time, knew that I was one with everything in the universe.  Not just on an intellectual level – but in my bones.  In my heart.  In my soul.  I knew I had access to anything and everything.  And I had gratitude of such a profound depth that it eclipsed all my little gratitude games and mantras.  I’ve had a great day today, and more is to come.  I don’t say that to mean, I hope I have more great days.  I just know that I will.

This blog is to say, don’t lose hope!  Keep at it.  Even if you are not feeling it at first, it will come.  Read, study, meditate.  Do all the mantras and exercises.  All those little efforts will prepare you for the much larger breakthroughs, like paving the road for a manifestation superhighway.  I think I just opened my on-ramp.  And I’m driving along in my dream car (I’m looking at you, Einstein)!

The Chakra Sledgehammer

So, as you may or may not know, I am, among other pursuits, a painter.  I paint mostly abstracts, and one of my current projects has been a series of chakra paintings.  This has been a longstanding project, because I am only working on them as I feel moved, spiritually speaking, to do so.  Generally this means that as I am working with a certain chakra, or have made some breakthrough with it, a painting gets made.

I have four out of the traditional seven chakras painted (my original plan was to do the seven; if I feel compelled to move beyond – some systems speak of even more chakras being in existence – I will do so).  The last one I completed was of the heart chakra:

Heart Chakra - ©Wren Paasch 2013

Heart Chakra – ©Wren Paasch 2013

Currently, I am working with my second chakra.  And when I say, “working with,” I mean smashing through blockages with the proverbial sledgehammer.  Plowing into it headfirst.  Crashing through it.  There is no gentle way of expressing what it is that I am doing.  Every time I have tried to put it into words, it is some destructive act that comes to mind.

(Amused grammar nazi side note – I got a little red squiggly line when I wrote the word “ploughing.”  So I Googled it to figure out how I was spelling it wrong.  Apparently in America and Canada, “plowing,” is correct, and “ploughing” is correct in all other English-speaking countries.  I am an American.  Apparently, I read a lot of books written by Brits?  But I digress.)

Historically speaking, it is my second chakra that has been my “problem child.”  If it’s not blocked like Gandalf is standing in front of it yelling “You shall not pass!!”, then it is leaking energy like a drafty old house leaks heat.  Yes, I am magickal enough that I can both be stopped up and leaking at the same time.  Woo!

So this work is simultaneously desperately needed, wicked difficult, and vastly rewarding.  And it also makes me wonder what the hey I’m going to paint when all is said and done.  As I’ve been making progress, I get an idea, but am not moved to act on it.  A couple of days later that idea is radically changed.  Then it’s changed again… so basically, as I purge and cleanse the chakra, my perception of it is changing.  A lot!  At this point, I’m kind of giving my painting muse a confused dog look (complete with head cocked off to the side), and a bemused grin.  She just laughs.

So yeah… I’m as unsure as to what I’m going to paint next as a stranger on the street might be.  But that’s half the fun!

If you were curious, here are the other three completed chakra paintings:

Solar Plexus Chakra - ©Wren Paasch 2012

Solar Plexus Chakra – ©Wren Paasch 2012

Root Chakra – ©Wren Paasch 2010

 

Third Eye Chakra - ©Wren Paasch 2010

Third Eye Chakra – ©Wren Paasch 2010

Up next… orange fireballs?  Stay tuned!

 

Spiritual Detox

I’ve mentioned before that I viewed discovering some old emotional/spiritual wound, feeling its pain as I processed it, and then ultimately letting it go as a sort of spiritual detoxification.  Those instances usually occurred rather unplanned: “Oh hey, what’s this?  A scar I didn’t know was there!  Christmas!!”  But today, boys and girls, we’re gonna talk about doing that quite on purpose.

When you detox physically, you usually plan it – sometimes a lot – with special recipes, supplements, baths, juicing, etc.  This usually involves a trip to the grocer for ingredients, and perhaps timing it to your days off if you think you might have a bit of a health crisis and don’t want to be miserable at work.  So why not plan our spiritual detoxification the same way?

Now obviously, you don’t need to head to the grocer -or your favorite religious/metaphysical shop, as it were – for ingredients (though planning it for your days off might be nice) in order to spiritually detox.  But a little intention goes a long way.

I recently made my first foray into the Akashic Records, and despite warnings from others to just “get a feel for the lay of the land” the first trip in, I felt driven to ask my guides to “bring it on.”  My guides get a kick out of that.  I heard them chuckling.

Bring it on they did.  And ever since then, I feel like I have been doing The Master (Spiritual) Cleanse.  Old, dusty, forgotten relics are getting expunged from my mental attic at such a rate that I very quickly stopped wondering why I was reliving this old feeling again and found myself just hanging on for the ride, like an old rickety roller coaster that bumps you around and gives you a minor case of whiplash.  It became evident that this was a detox.  A bring-a-good-book-to-the-emotional-toilet detox.  Don’t fight it; that will only make things worse.

After several days of just hanging on for dear life and squeezing my eyes shut on that roller coaster, I began to peek out of one eye.  I began to work on the physical purging project on overdrive, but was under no illusions that this was the purpose of my purge: this was merely a reflection of my inner workings.  Some people turn their outside lives inward; I tend to turn my inner life outward.  My cycles of messy chaos, focused organization, and pure creation have always reflected what was going on in my mind.  My packrat habits developed during the years that I was stashing away those emotional injuries so they wouldn’t hurt me in the present, only to be dealt with later; my purging project began when I started to unearth those old storage units and let them see the light of day.

Though I am still in the middle of this ride (I think presently my coaster is on the upside-down section of track), I can say this for sure: God, do I feel better.  And then worse, and then better, and then worse, and then better.  It’s kind of like when you have the stomach flu, and eventually you get to the point where you are just willing yourself to toss your cookies, just so you can get it over with and feel better.  And you really do feel better once it’s out.

…Doesn’t that simile just make you want to spiritually detox right now?  Eh heh.  I promise, it’s worth it.

So, put it out there.  Even if going to the Records is a little “out there” for you, or you just don’t feel ready for that yet, talk to your guides.  They’re listening.  Let them know you’re ready to start dealing with things that you previously couldn’t.  That you want to get rid of negative toxins in your thought process.  If we’re going to improve the world, we first have to improve ourselves.

But maybe do that meditation on your day off. 😉

Working On Forgiveness

We’ve all heard some variation of the idea that holding a grudge is hurting ourselves rather than the person we’re angry at, right?  We understand, logically, that getting ourselves worked up does not make the offender feel bad (especially since most of the time they’re unaware that we’re worked up, or why), and having an internal dialogue full of “GRRR!” and “RAWR!” not only does nothing to solve the problem, but doesn’t even make us feel better – usually it just serves to inflate our anger.  So those of us that are on this path and trying to better ourselves are usually working on forgiving those that have hurt us, and letting go of grudges.  Sounds like a great idea!

But there’s a key point: we’re working on it.  Now I don’t mean to say that if you haven’t achieved total forgiveness of everyone who has wronged you, you’re doing it wrong.  On the contrary.  I think we’re working too hard.  Let me explain.

If you’re working on something, you’re thinking about it, right?  Whether that thing is a project, dinner, or A Book, you have to be actively thinking about it in order to work on it.  So… in working on forgiveness, we’re… dwelling on the thing that hurt us.

And that is just about exactly what we don’t want to do.

Law of attraction time!  What you think about is what you attract, right?  So why the hell are we thinking so hard about things that have hurt us, in an effort to let those things go?  That’s not letting them go, that’s letting them take up residence in our minds.

But Wren!  I hear you say.  We need to process the hurt in order to let it go!

Yeah, yeah, okay.  At a certain point, you do.  As I’ve said, I do not advocate plastering on a fake smile and pretending that nothing is wrong when your insides are doing their finest impersonation of paper in a cross-cut shredder.  But eventually, you’ll have all the insights you’re going to have on the subject, and dwelling on it further is just rubbing salt in the wound.  Or lemon juice.  Or anti-bacterial gel.  Because holy hell does that stuff sting when you’ve got a cut on your hand, no?

Nor does this apply necessarily to hurts in order.  Sometimes the most recent hurts are the easiest to let go; sometimes the old ones are.  Sometimes you can say, yeah, that was a long time ago, and it can’t hurt me anymore.  Goodbye!  And sometimes those are the ones that thirty years later will whack you upside the head so hard cartoon birds will be singing in your ears from the sudden shock.  I’m not saying there are hard-and-fast rules, here.  But we shouldn’t be defining ourselves by our hurts; we shouldn’t be labeling ourselves a victim; we shouldn’t play over and over again past tragedies on repeat in our minds.  Nor, for that matter, should we wish to make ourselves martyrs.  I think God’s got enough of those, don’t you?  He is not asking you to suffer needlessly for some Greater Good.  What greater purpose could be served by you living a life of fear and anguish?

So… if you discover some old, heretofore unexplored specimen that reveals some insight into Why You Are The Way You Are, great.  Self-realization is a fabulous thing.  But then I don’t want you to make it Your Project to study the hell out of it like a scholar with the Dead Sea Scrolls – see what it had to teach you, appreciate it, and keep the lesson, not the hurt (and by “lesson,” I don’t mean keep the lesson that your mom calling you fat when you were ten means that you have to obsess over your weight now and for the rest of your life – I mean, keep the lesson that sometimes things we didn’t realize the origins of (obsession with weight) have a very discoverable source, and don’t define us.  We can let them go, because our mother’s judgement all those years ago was hers, not ours).  Let the hurt evaporate like morning dew under the bright sun.

And don’t, for the love of God, go around patting yourself on the back about What A Big Person You Are for no longer being angry at whoever the perpetrator of that past hurt was; that’s making yourself a martyr.  Don’t believe me?  You’re thinking of yourself as saintly for enduring cruelty at the hands of the unenlightened from your place of Spiritual Greatness – isn’t that, essentially, martyrdom?

OK, you say, I got it.  I’ll just let go all those times someone hurt me, and not think on it anymore.  I’m done!

But wait, there’s more!

I was thinking on this very subject the other day in response to a friend on some message boards online, and her comments made me have a realization of my own: there is no finish line to forgiveness.

Yup.  It’s unlikely that you’re going to forgive someone for something, and then cross them off your list, like a to-do for inner peace.  Maybe you forgive your mom for calling you fat when you were ten.  You let go the notions you carried all these years about weight.  You think you’re done forgiving Mom.  You cross her off your list.  But then – shock! – a year later, you remember some other comment of hers that altered your world, and you find her square in your “working on” area again.

I do not then want you going through your mental catalog of Mom Comments, searching for any and all instances of How She Messed You Up, so you can thoroughly and completely forgive her, and be done with it.  You’re not going to find them all!  And then you’ve spent all that time (and perhaps therapy) rehashing every not-so-nice comment she ever made, essentially re-flogging yourself, in pursuit of some “finish line” that doesn’t exist.

We’re humans.  We’re messy.  We don’t stay within the lines.

I have a person (who shall remain nameless) that I’ve got a catalog of instances like the Mom Comments in my example above, who I’ve been “working on” forgiving.  I felt like I was “making progress,” and was going through the catalog, page by page, banishing those “lessons” from my psyche that no longer served me.  It’s great that I let those things go.  But was I serving myself by examining things that didn’t need to be examined?  Do you enjoy unnecessary, invasive medical examinations?  Didn’t think so.

It wasn’t until I gained the perspective of that person as just a human – a weak human, sure, but a human – instead of some large, looming monster lurking in my closet at night, waiting to pounce – that a much larger shift began to take place.  I turned on the proverbial light, and saw that this person was just a shadow, not a monster.

When you’ve got someone that has made such an impact on your life such that they are a huge, powerful creature in your head – it’s a bit of a different animal to forgive.  It’s unlikely you’re dealing with one issue, which you can forgive and forget.  You’re likely dealing with patterns and behaviors – theirs and yours.  But when you realize they’re just a messed up human, and can see all those individual instances of pain add up to a pattern of behavior because they’re messed up too, suddenly they don’t loom so large.  They shrink in your psyche.  They become… spirit.

Because we’re all spirits!  We’re all spirits having an in-body experience.  Sometimes we mess up in this grand experiment called life, but I just can’t bring myself to believe that a person’s spirit, their essence, is “evil”.  I don’t care what they’ve done.  They could be the most evil SOB ever to grace the planet – something made them that way.  Maybe it was ignorance, their own hurt, delusions, or some combination thereof.  I don’t think when they die, they’ll still be the same.  I don’t think, in spirit, racists will be racists, or there will be religious intolerance.  Because when we’re all spirit, there is no race – and I seriously doubt there is a Protestant/Catholic, Jewish/Palestinian line in the sand in the afterlife.  Do you?

When you look at the people that hurt you as just little spirits, same as you, they are no longer big scary monsters out to get you.  They are just humans who messed up.  Maybe you don’t think they are just awesome now, but what they did no longer looms so large.  Thinking of them does not produce the same anger or hurt that it once did.  You are no longer punishing yourself for once being hurt.

And that, my friend, is pretty darn good work.

Multiple Universes

It’s funny what we focus on from day-to-day.  The things that take up residence in our conscious and label themselves as “important” or even just “noteworthy,” let alone “urgent” – are they really so large?

A year from now, are you going to remember that time you were late paying a bill?  Ten years from now, are you going to remember how much you wanted that shiny new electronic toy, or how excited you were about a new movie?  Are you even going to remember the movie?  Will you still own the toy, presuming you bought it in the first place?

Are you going to remember the argument you had with your significant other over something insignificant – dirty laundry or forgotten errands or God knows what?

Why is it that we let these petty things take up so much residence in our minds?  Why do we give them so much energy?

I would much rather be contemplating the meaning of life than finances.  The Otherworld than politics.  The potential of multiple universes than carpet cleaner.  But I find myself, like anyone else, pondering pet stain products and banging my head over some pol’s latest foot-in-mouth disease, wondering how THAT guy or gal could possibly represent anybody.  Really, where do they find these people?

It’s when I have these moments of clarity, when I can see that I’ve been hunched over the desk of Little Thoughts for too long, and I sit up and take a long stretch and rub the fog from my eyes, that I can see the vast expanse of possibility.  The potential of Multiple Universes.  The potential of Me.  I take a deep breath, and I am breathing in Everything.  I want to weep at the trillions of stars that the city lights of my encapsulated mind blind me to most days.  I want to have this view all the time.

And then something calls me back, I get distracted, and before I know it, I’m hunched over the desk again, plugging away at one tiny cog in a massive machine that is Life.

But every once in a while… when you get up from your desk, climb up to the rooftop, and just admire the view… those are the moments that are worth it.

Those are the moments when I look around, and I want to grab everyone else at their desk and turn off all the lights so they can see the stars, too.

Those are the moments when part of me is overjoyed at the whole works, the whole system, this wondrous, unimaginable thing we couldn’t describe in words if we tried – and part of me wonders if I’m not all alone in it, floating in a tiny rowboat amid the stars, the only one who will ever see it from this vantage point.  Or perhaps others may, but we’ll never be in the same harbor at the same time and be able to discuss the rapture of the multiverse.

They say that no two beings are ever in the same time and space together.  You and I could be standing two feet apart, and we won’t be in the same time and space.  Time and space are divisible into such tiny slivers, that even our own bodies are not in the same place at the same time.  My fingers that are typing this and my brain that is sending the signals to do so are in two different places, at two different times.  My pinky finger is in a different space and time than my ring finger.  Every fiber of my being, though connected, is literally in a different moment of time than the fiber next to it.  And I wonder if we will ever feel whole.

Or if we will ever fully understand what overwhelmingly beautiful and powerful creatures we are.  Whether you think we make or are made, or both – we are.  And each one of us is a conglomeration of multiple times in space all working together to create a larger being that is us.  And we consciously direct that symphony of time that is our bodies to work together for a unified purpose.

We manipulate space and time, all the time.  And we don’t even know we can do it.  We just do it, instinctively.

Magnificent beings, aren’t we?

Your Body Is A Temple

Part of my spiritual upbringing included a whole lot of “Physical realm bad.  Spiritual realm good.  Must punish physical body in order to achieve spiritual enlightenment.  Physical body doesn’t count.” type messages (and yes, I imagine that being said like a stereotypical caveman grunt.  Though I suppose cavemen might have had wondrously complex languages, you get the point).  So for a very long time, even as I thought I was maturing and growing, I still treated my body like a trash heap, and thought of it that way, too.

You’ll recall my previously stating how I came precariously close to becoming a full-fledged hoarder until I moved into my current apartment, which caused me to look the problem square in the face and deal with it.  I still am, four and a half years later.  It is a long and sometimes difficult process, but so worthwhile.  I never fully realized until I started watching the show Hoarders what this said about how I thought about myself.  In more than one episode, it has been made abundantly clear that some of the people surrounded themselves with trash because they thought of themselves as trash.  They perceived themselves as not worthy.  They thought they were disposable.

That was me.  I thought I was unlovable.  Easily discarded.  Worthless.  Trash.

Having that revelation brought front and center planted the seed of thought that I needed to re-evaluate my relationship with self.

After reading the book The Secret, which was filled with a revolutionary concept for me at the time, I decided that instead of beating myself down with negative self-talk, I would beat the negativity down and squash it like a bug.  And so the process began.

At the beginning, I felt a little Stuart Smalley-like, as though I should have been staring in a mirror and telling myself, “You’re good enough, you’re smart enough, and doggone it, people like you!”  In other words, I felt more cheesy than the entire state of Wisconsin.  But I stuck with it, and after a while it became less forced.  I began to actually believe I was good enough, and smart enough, etc.  I felt less corny and more like I was having a deep psychological breakthrough.

Now, I had tried counseling a couple of times in my life, and other than it occasionally being nice to have someone to vent to, didn’t feel like it was helping me much.  This utter willpower maneuver of mandated positivity did more to repair my psyche than any outside person telling me that my thoughts were unhealthy ever did.  And I began to believe that I deserved love; I deserved happiness; I deserved respect.  Don’t all people?

But just recently this awareness took a new turn.  Even though I had been accepting that I deserved to be happy for a while now, I still wasn’t looking at my physical form with a whole lot of self-love.

Several months ago, I finally caved to months of pressure from my doctor to try easing up on my strict vegetarianism.  After over nine years of strident near-vegan “purity,” I agreed to try “a little fish” and see how I felt.  The doc felt I wasn’t getting enough protein or omega-3s.  She wanted to see if the omega-3s would help my mood, and the protein help balance my blood sugar (I was so hypoglycemic, I was crashing on a near-daily basis.  Sometimes more than once a day).

Holy mother of nutrition, did I feel almost immediately better.

The sugar crashing all but stopped.  I can now count on my fingers the number of times I’ve sugar crashed in the months since, instead of it being a given that it would happen regularly.  I had more energy, too.  Oh, and… the perpetual always-coldness began to let up, at least somewhat.  I’m still “the cold one” in a group, but there are times where I actually feel warm now.  That was nearly unheard of.

I quickly dubbed myself a pescatarian (someone who eats fish, but no other meat), and figured that was that.  But I had opened up the floodgates.  My body started having cravings I had thought were long dead.  It wanted more.

I fought it.  I already felt guilty; I thought of myself as a “failed vegetarian” or “weak” for giving in to what my body obviously needed.  I wondered why others seemed to do so well on a veggie diet and I didn’t.  You know how people are supposed to lose weight when they go veg?  I actually gained weight.  About 30 pounds.  I did not understand how that happened.  It brought up even more body-hate in my mind, because I used to be a stick.  Suddenly I felt ginormous.  I fasted as much as I could without putting myself in a diabetic coma, and my weight didn’t budge.  I restricted what was “acceptable” fare more and more.  I ate low-fat this and diet that.  Still fat.

So I caved.  All or nothing, right?  If I had already failed as a vegetarian, then I had failed.  Might as well go out with a chicken pot pie in hand and enjoy myself.

And I felt even better.  This was counter to every nutrition book I had read for the past decade (all aimed at vegetarians, mind you).  What really caused me to make the pescatarian-omnivore leap was reading a Jillian Michaels book on diet and nutrition.  She had recommended twice the amount of protein that one of my cherished veggie books had done.  Twice.  That wasn’t exactly splitting hairs.  That was a completely different take on nutrition.  So I started searching for more information online.

In addition to a mountain of blogs and websites I still find myself getting lost in for hours, I found an interview with Lierre Keith, a former vegan for twenty years and author of the book The Vegetarian Myth.  It got me interested enough that I bought the audiobook (I have found that I love listening to a good non-fiction audiobook, in addition to reading them normally).  I’m still listening to it, but so far it is proving to be one of the most profound books I’ve ever read in my life (and as previously noted, I’m a bibliophile of epic proportions).  This isn’t some machismo rancher looking condescendingly down upon the wussy vegetarians and telling us how silly we are; this is someone who had many of the same motivations I did (save the animals!  save the earth!), and struggled with many of the same moral issues, who recognized her own willful blindness to the truth about everything, and slowly – and not without a fight – came around.  I can’t even begin to do it justice by attempting to summarize it here; but truly, if you really want to know about saving the animals, saving the earth, our health, the industrial food system, and how things really work, I can’t recommend this book enough.  So many of the things we think we know are wrong.

Anyway… let’s get this Amtrak train of thought back on its rail.  Honoring my body.

So, okay, I’ve been now exploring the world of traditional foods, homesteading (if ever there was a thing that I get passionately obsessed with, it’s homesteading), and the like, and learning about the nutritional needs of my body from a non-vegetarian perspective.  I feel like a new student in a completely foreign field of study, with so much to learn, and so little time.  But this metric ton of knowledge was all pointing to the same personal revelation: I had willfully been ignoring the very basic, very human, very physical needs of my body, relegating them to “weaknesses” and “unimportant” in the name of some “pure” ideal that was impossible to attain (yes, vegans, even you are not eating without death.  Just because there is no meat on your plate, doesn’t mean animals weren’t killed as pests on the farm, or by a harvesting machine, or for fertilizer, or when farmland was deforested or prairie turned into farmland, etc.  Read The Vegetarian Myth.  I promise, it’s not condescending.  It’s someone who wanted the same things you want).

So why were my very natural needs being given the short shrift?  Because I still felt my body was not “worth it”.  Not worth what?  Surviving?  Thriving?  Did I truly believe I was put on this Earth to suffer?

I took a look at how I was treating my body otherwise.  I either was punishing it with exercise, or none at all.  Eating junk, or not enough.  I didn’t respect the food I was using to nourish myself: the perpetual load of dirty dishes, my hadn’t-been-cleaned-in-ages refrigerator, the splatter-covered microwave and toaster oven.  The kitchen wasn’t the place to create sacred nourishment, it was the place to throw together something convenient and get the heck outta there.  No attention was paid – ironically, as I thought of myself as “food conscious” – to the act of nourishing my body, even as I obsessively counted calories or ounces of water.  Allergy season caused me to look at my bed – covered in pet hair, sheets rarely changed, the mattress producing a renegade spring that had stabbed my hand and drawn blood once already.  A litter box right next to it, which was placed there to try and prevent one of the kitties from peeing under it (it worked, but she has shifted territory again, so it’s rather moot at this point).  In addition to the spring escapee, all my bedsheets are old and threadbare, hand me downs, stained, torn, and otherwise just as problematic.  Even my bed frame is almost as old as I am, and a hand me down that used to be half of a bunkbed.  I’ve never in all my 33 years had a bed that wasn’t a bunkbed, or part of one, let alone something larger than a twin size.  I had to throw out the egg crate cushion I had on it to try and make things more comfortable because a kitty peed on it.  I had a dream where I was told this was like sleeping in my own filth.  And you know, it’s true.  There is a literal litter box right at the foot of my bed.  How was that respecting myself and the place where I was supposed to get rest?

Being that I’ve been living off of savings and grace since I lost the day job last year, now is not exactly the best financial time to go to a furniture store and buy a nice new full-size bed with a comfy mattress and new thick sheets.  I accept that I deserve these things now, but to buy them would lead to a case of… aaaaaand how am I going to pay the rent?  So.  I did the best I could with what I have.  Washed the blankets.  Changed the sheets.  Vacuumed the mattress, the box spring, all the nooks and crannies, the heat registers around the side of the bed.  The litter box is getting moved this weekend (it will take some furniture re-arranging to find it a new home).  I’ll shampoo the carpet then, too.

I also went a little cleaning-frenzy in the kitchen and did the dishes, cleaned the fridge, and the microwave.  Checked for expired beyond use foods and tossed them.  Cleaned the floor.  Now when I open the refrigerator door, it feels so white and clean… and pure.  Because I’m honoring what I put into my body.  I’m honoring where my body gets rest.  My body isn’t the means to an end, or a sub-par vessel that doesn’t count.  It isn’t “a bag of water” as one of my friends terms it.  It’s a temple.  One that I am the proud caretaker of.

A Time For Every Purpose

Modern life is filled with a whole lot of tossing aside of natural rhythms and forcibly conforming to some arbitrary man-made order.  If we don’t mold easily to whatever contrived system is deemed “normal,” we’re freaks, we’re lazy, we’re procrastinators, or we’re just plain weird.  If your energy, your muse, or your motivation doesn’t come in eight-hour bursts five days a week, then something is just wrong with you.  I’ve already discussed my struggles with the fact that I do not have a 24-hour circadian rhythm and how that has affected my sleeping and waking life.  But I’m not just talking about sleep.  My energy and my inspiration comes in waves, and it does this with everything.  I’ll have a spate of painting inspiration, or writing inspiration, or knitting inspiration, or cleaning inspiration.  For a while, be that a few days or a few weeks, I will be painting like a being possessed, or writing at a pace that if sustained would get something the length of War and Peace turned out in a couple of months.  But do I sustain this frenetic knit-a-thon until I’ve made a cozy large enough to hug the cash register building (attention non-Denverites: look at a picture of our skyline.  We have a skyscraper shaped like an old-school cash register)?  No.  The wave of knitting mania peters out before it goes that far.  And then I won’t knit for possibly months until I feel compelled to pick up a pair of needles again.

Sometimes I wish I could control when these bursts of focused energy hit, but that’s the thing.  I can’t.  No one can.  I can’t say, “Writing muse, activate!” like I’m a Wonder Twin.  When it’s there, it’s there.  When it’s not, it’s not.  That’s how the muse works.  And it’s not just creative endeavors, either.  I mentioned cleaning, for one.  Sometimes I go on a cleaning/purging/organizing binge that would make Mr. Monk proud.  Other times the mere sight of the dirty dishes piling up in my kitchen sink fills me with dread.

Here is where I estimate about 50% of my reading audience is going to attempt to diagnose me with bipolar disorder.  And though I will admit that idea has been floated to me by a doctor at one point, I really don’t think it is the case.  Because usually the “swing” isn’t a swing at all, but a shift.  One day I might be a cleaning fool.  Then the next day I might be click-clacking away at the keyboard.  It’s not that I’m “high” or “low” – it’s that my focus has changed.  And you can put away the ADD diagnosis as well.  When I’m inspired, I have the focus of a laser.  For HOURS.  Or days.  Or weeks.  You get the idea.

Which brings me to the larger point: why do we seek to label things that don’t fit the “normal” mold as disorders?  I’m not saying actual disorders don’t exist, but why is it a problem if all I can think about is writing for a week, or if I have twenty things I am flitting about in one day?  If I’m functional, I hardly think that’s a disorder.

Aha, therein lies the rub: define “functional.”  You might say, if I’m so absorbed in what I’m doing that I skip a meal or a shower then slow down, turbo, that’s just craziness!  But would you think so if you were reading about some great artist and how they created their masterpiece?  I’m guessing you’d just label that “artistic genius” (unfortunately, telling my mother that I was an artistic genius growing up because Leonardo DaVinci was supposedly a slob didn’t get me out of cleaning my room, but ya know, worth a shot).  And how many gamers do you know that get whatever new game they love and will not be seen or heard from for the next two or three days until they’ve beaten the thing?  Are they disordered or just passionate about that game?  Since it’s an actual thing for significant others to call themselves “<enter name of game here> widows,” as in, “Are you free this weekend?” “Yeah, I’ll be a Skyrim widow for the next few days, so I’m free!” …I’m thinking that’s not so abnormal.  So why do we treat it as such?

Why do we make exceptions (see above gaming example) for some things, but that is absolutely out of the question for other things?  Why can’t you call out of your day job when you need a mental health day without faking a cough?  Why isn’t it enough to just say, my focus just really isn’t there today, and I wouldn’t be very productive if I tried to force it anyway?  Because it’s seen as immature to admit to the fact that you can’t turn your focus and passion on and off like a switch?  I would think it would be more mature to know your “limitations,” though I hesitate to call them such.  I don’t see these things as limitations; I see them as natural cycles.

Think about it historically: people living closer to the land had natural cycles built into their lives that us modern city-dwellers don’t even acknowledge today.  There was planting season; there was growing season; there was harvesting season; there was the cold season when you retreated indoors.  Your focus was on different activities, in different quantities, at different times of the year.  And those activities were influenced by things like the weather, and how much sunlight you had, and how many people were working together to accomplish a goal.  Yet we’re expected to still maintain a year-round five days a week, 52 weeks a year, eight hour burst of focus on the same exact thing for our entire adult lives.  Sounds rather arbitrary, doesn’t it?

So why is it “irresponsible” to not fit that unnatural mold?  It sounds more like being in tune with the real world to me.  But we’ve become so conditioned, in a very short period of time, when you think about it, that this is just the way things are, and how they’ve always been.  But in reality the industrial revolution, and with it, the scheduling of people’s lives around factory schedules instead of the natural world, is a relatively recent development.

I say down with a man-made contrivance, and up with listening to your body, your spirit, and your natural rhythms.  I find I accomplish a lot more of value this way, as opposed to a pile of busywork and an ethic of butts-in-seats.  Do what is worthwhile.  Time is relative.

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