Ruminating On Rumi

As you start to walk out on the way, the way appears.

~ M. Rumi

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Other Things

Can you recollect the last time your mind was not present but somewhere else? Telltale signs are the blank, glazed look in the eyes. The eyes may be looking forward but gaze is beyond what’s right in front. The only thing present is the body. This is not unusual in our busy work-a-day world; no matter what the day and age, concerns elsewhere can draw us away from here now. The thoughts can be filled with excitement and expectation or of stress and concern and any other possibility. 
I’ve been reading and practicing from a book called “The Happiness Trap” by Dr Russ Harris. The cover also reads: “How to Stop Struggling and Start Living ~ A guide to ACT, the mindfulness-based program for reducing stress, overcoming fear, and creating a rich and meaningful life.”

“Wow, those are rather large claims for a mindfulness-based program,” my skeptic side notes, before I’d even cracked the spine. 

Upon reading the first couple of paragraphs of the foreword, I was hooked in.  Oddly enough in this book the hooking in of the mind, thoughts or images, the understanding of how the mind hooks in and what we can do about it, are the basic gems of inspiration in this book. 

We are offered exercises to recognize when we are being hooked in. This hooking in is referred to as fusing. “In ACT, we use the term “fusion” to mean that a thought and the thing it refers to ~ the story and the event ~ become stuck together, as one. Thus, we react to words about a lemon as if a lemon is actually present; we react to words in a crime novel as if someone really is about to be murdered; we react to words like ‘I’m useless’ as if we actually are useless; and we react to words like ‘I’m going to fail’ as if failure is a foregone conclusion.”

We don’t necessarily fuse with all other things. The mind may simply note the thought and then file it away to be examined later. In this chapter called “The Great Storyteller” we are introduced to the power thoughts, we believe, have over us. Then without so much of a breath we are given the opportunity to examine our beliefs and practice ways to change them, if necessary.  The basic criteria, in this book, for the reason to change is if the thought(s) are unkind and/or not useful. 

This is not a quick read, nor does the author encourage it.  He constantly reminds us to put the book down and think about it and practice the very useful exercises. Dr. Harris reiterates that if an exercise confounds or just doesn't serve don't use it.  I am not hestitant to say that “The Happiness Trap” offers some very essential tools for life. I would even go so far as to say this book is the toolbox. 

Sorry, “other things” carried me away from this blog on other things. Unfortunately, when we fuse with “other things”, particularly when they’re scary or unpleasant, we inadvertantly deny ourselves a quality of life that inspires us to act in the moment, whatever arises in it. This is neither wrong nor is it definitive, it’s life practice, not life perfect. Or perhaps life perfectly unfolding in it's perfectly imperfect way.  Whatever. 

In joy. 

Friday, January 24, 2014

A Short Cautionary Tale

It was very unusual, perhaps even highly suspicious, that she would leave dirty dishes in the sink overnight. Submersed in hot water and soapy bubbles, they were a joy to behold.  After a night’s sitting they were gross.  The bubbles were lame, perhaps a thin skim of oil grime ringed the sink or some inedibles floated on the top.   

The only time she would put off this most pleasing of pleasures would be for a half hour or so while she let them soak as she tooth brush scrubbed the bathroom, tub, toilet, sink and all. Yes, unusual was putting it mildly. 

Washing dishes was number one on her list of relaxing past times. Her reasoning; it got the dishes clean, warmed her hands up and offered a sensory cornucopia of enjoyment. She hesitated to include it on  her favorite lists on PhaseBook because someone out their might think she was a loser. While doing the dishes she would occasionally sing “Only losers do their laundry on a Saturday night”, which, in fact, was her favourite night to do laundry. But it would be strange to post that or the dishes doing thing or the fact that she bought dish washing liquid by the case every couple of months or that an evening of good clean fun meant just that, cleaning.

For her weird might be if anyone every found out the number and variety of dish washing implements she had.  Aside from an assortment of old toothbrushes, she had the small mop like thing, the long handled brush, the brush attached to a hollow handle which you loaded with soap, different scrub brushes for different occasions, of course, the obligatory plastic scrubber for Teflon, and the Brillo pads and the steel wool for the really stubborn stuff. It goes without saying that she had a few of those hand knitted dish cloths, regular dish cloths, bar mops and even, for an emergency sink overflow, chamois’. 

She took pride in being a purist, no gloves, just bare hands. And then her after dishes secret, the very sensual application of the vanilla heavy duty multi-purpose hand lotion on her reddened, raisin wrinkled hands. Because, as everybody knows dishes should only be washed in the hottest of waters.  Which brings us to back to the oddness of her not completing the dish washing tasks before the dishes had time to cool down. 

That as it may, she was dismayed, disconcerted and not a little disgruntled to see the dish washing chore had been missed.  For those of you who are not squeamish to reach a bare hand into a sink full of dirty dishes submersed in slimy cold water read on.  If you are squeamish you may want to find something else to do. 

Fair warning.  Onward.

She held her breath immersed her bare hand into that cold cesspool of cleaning gone wrong and searched around for the strainer. (It’s called a plunger/stopper in the bathroom.) She fished around. She moved some dishes. She shuffled some cutlery. And then she screamed. Something grabbed her pinkie finger. 

That was the last something she had ever expected to happen in her kitchen sink. It held on as she thrashed her hand around in the water trying to knock it off on cups, glasses, the cheese grater or a pot lid. There was only one thing to do. She reached in with the other hand, grabbed the thing and her pinkie finger and squeezed.  Her eyes were squinched shut, she couldn’t look, not even a peak. Then she felt a gelatinous substance ooze out over her fingers and a thin stream of bubbles surfaced. A delicate stream of red followed, then subsided, then one last bubble which popped and discharged a mildly foul odor. 

Red lights flashed in her mind’s eye. She imagined a label and it read, in dark bold letters with a skull and cross bone symbol;  Caution; something unusual.

As she pulled her hands out of the water something once alive hung limply between her fingers. It was attached to a stunning tail that shimmered and shone with an iridescence greater then that of the most prized Siamese fighting fish tail. She was astonished to see the fine squished features of something almost humanoid. She could feel a tear squeeze from the corner of her right eye and trickle down her cheek. What a little fighter! Her heart was touched by this limp little form and its brave yet futile attempt to fight for life.  To examine a little closer, she turned over the tail. Without warning, it bit her. With no hesitation, she squished the thing between both hands, tossed it in the toilet and flushed. 

In big, black marker letters she wrote a sign and posted it by the sink, just in case another one of these somethings found its way into a forgotten sink of dirty dishes. 

Caution: no tail left unturned. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Thinks and Beliefs

The bumper sticker reads,  "Don’t believe everything your mind thinks." Well it got me to pondering.  I thought the reverse is just as important if not more so.  Don’t think everything your mind believes.  Then I thought about how I could put this belief into words.  Thinking  about beliefs morphs into talking passionately about beliefs which as we well know can make one sound rather pompously self-righteous.  There may even be a tendency for the holier-then-thou to talk the talk but not walk the walk. 
Fervent, sanctimonious beliefs may result in giving “should” advise to others.  Most people don’t like to be should on.  And of course, as soon as beliefs are made known we may also realize that those beliefs aren’t actually true all of the time or may only be relevant occasionally. 
So you might well ask, what’s wrong with having beliefs or values? The answer to that is nothing. I believe (ah ha gotcha) that a belief is valuable when you live it. The usefulness of a belief is in knowing when to stick to it or simply realizing that to stop a belief from becoming a dogma we must be flexible.  There is no  one-size-fits all response for each and every happening in life.  Let me retract that. The only one-size-fits all response is “I don’t know.” 
We may have the basics of how to behave appropriately. (In Zen Buddhism, we call it skillful means.) As no-thing in life is static, fixed or permanent how we respond to anything deeply depends on what is required in the moment.  

There is no training in the world that can equip you with the answer or answers to everything. Douglas Adams author of “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” took a stab at it when he wrote. ”The answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything is 42.”

As far as I’m concerned that answer is as good as it gets.

So it goes. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

I've Been Thinking

~~~ Well, I’ve been pondering. Not that I wasn't until this point.  It’s just my mind has been filled with anxiety and fear. For this moment, I am truly experientially realizing that they're just words, just thoughts. 
Occasionally I do forget, and as my children say, I get panic fingers. My mind races.  I think I can fix what's happening or predict the future. The difference is that now I realize that things are tough. Yes. And also there is much to be grateful for.
To start with I can be grateful for the realization  that all  I can do is  be right here, right now; with each breath I can anchor myself to the present moment.  
I’ve just recently learned that when a family member is in recovery the whole family is in recovery. Perhaps this process of recovery begins this way.
The first step to  recovery (of any kind whether it’s anxiety, self-depracation or substance use) or self-improvement and change is to recognize and own the problem.This may be start with the observation of a friend or counsellor or a personal revelation. 
The second step is, possibly through counselling, to find out when and how the problem arose. Not to dote on the past but to give it true recognition, understanding and forgiveness. 
The third step is to realize that while there was a good reason for the behaviour in the past, in the present it may no longer serve. 
The fourth step on this path of self awareness is to put it into action, through self-compassion, thoughts, words and deeds.
That’s what I’m doing, a recovering anxiety. (Really that’s how it felt, that anxiety was my identity.)

So it goes.  That’s all for now.  I can’t guarantee I’ll write the next Pigasus post soon but I can say, I will return.