Present Tense


“Recalibrating…Recalibrating… Recalibrating”…..

My brain has been like a confused GPS unit all week.  I thought that I was prepared for this kind of situation.  Why do I meditate?  Why do I study?  Why have I spent so much time reminding myself to live in this moment and that life is all about change and evolution?  That was all supposed to help me cope with the inevitable course alterations that are required of a functioning human.

I’ve spent the better part of the past year preparing for a transition in our lives.  Emotionally, financially, physically; the whole package.  I did this knowing that it all might not play out the way I was anticipating.  The whole point of a mindfulness practice is to remind ourselves that all we know is this particular moment.  All we really know is that life changes randomly despite our best-laid plans.

So, when a ‘recalibration’ became necessary, why did it freak me out?  Because old habits are so very ingrained in all of us.  I hate that.  Enlightenment is extremely hard work when your brain is so damned stubborn.

I want what I want, NOW.  I cannot stand uncertainty.  I need to have firm plans. I am dangling and swinging in the wind. ARGH!

So, as I sat on my meditation cushion this morning, it suddenly hit me: I’ll be fine.  With whatever transpires.  I planned for one scenario, but I’m open and ready to embrace the other one that has suddenly appeared.   Either one will be great.

The funny thing about my current angst is that I’ve always been a glass half-full type when it comes to how my life has played out.  Things typically work out just fine.  Yes, there are challenges, but we adapt.  We recalibrate.  I must keep reminding myself that it all unfolds as it will.  I can only respond in a healthy and flexible way.

I was listening to a podcast the other day from some talks at a Buddhist retreat center and a couple of concepts jumped up and stuck in my brain like  post-it notes.  “Respond, rather than react” and “pay attention; don’t cling”.    Allow yourself the time to ponder and assess your new circumstance and then don’t hang onto the old one and expect it to change. Don’t cling to the pre-conceptions or the ‘what ifs’ that can clog up our brains and cause us such suffering and pain.

I’m marching toward a fork in the road and either path is fine.  Either path will contain joy, pain, challenges, peace, happiness, tragedy, growth.  Because that’s life.

March 9, 2013 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Calming my ‘monkey brain’…..

I have a love/hate relationship with my smart phone.  I love that it connects me with the world and I hate that it connects me with the world.

I hate that it has turned me into Pavlov’s dog every time I get an ‘alert’ that I have an email or a text.  I pounce on that phone like it’s a life raft and I’m drowning.  I use ‘work’ as an excuse for having the phone with me at all times.  What if there is an important email that I need to see immediately?  That happens approximately…um…never.  Checking email once or twice a day would keep me completely in the work loop.

Here’s the dirty little secret that I had to face:  most of the mails I get are Facebook notifications.  Worse than that, I have numerous Facebook pages; one personal and 3 for my job.  That, my friends is ENTIRELY too much Facebook. This past week I decided to take some action.

I’ve instituted “No Facebook Tuesdays”.  One day a week when I must stay completely off all of my Facebook accounts and I’ll tell you why.  While FB can be kind of fun and a great way to re-connect with old friends (which is what my ‘personal’ FB consists of; people that I actually KNOW), the other ones tend to suck an inordinate amount of my time.

I’m compelled to read the posts and comment.  I’m compelled to update my status updates several times a day and comment.  Then, I find myself in “discussions” (arguments) with people I don’t know, over subjects that I really don’t care all that much about.  Does that sound healthy and productive? Didn’t think so.

I’m reading a wonderful book by Buddhist nun, Pema Chodron called “Living Beautifully With Uncertainty and Change”.   It’s part of my continuing work on leaving behind my compulsions, ego and tendency to worry everything to death.  I love the Buddhist concept of impermanence; that nothing stays the same, that we really don’t ever have solid ground under our feet and if we accept that and forget about trying to control the uncontrollable, we will eventually awaken to the reality of our true selves and our true lives.

The first step on this path is to let go of the need to be ‘right’;  the compulsion to assert our ego into everything.  To develop the ability to quell our desire to comment and opine on every issue.  That’s hard for me.  Facebook is one big, fat stew of comments, opinions, rants, fights, disagreements and screaming egos demanding to be heard and affirmed.  Blech.

And don’t think this is an indictment of everyone but me; it’s not.  I find myself reading or listening to something that moves me and the first thought that pops into my mind is that I need to post it on Facebook.  Really?  I can’t just own it for myself and enjoy the moment and the emotions that I’m feeling?  I have to show everyone that I found something they need to consume.  And yes, I will post this blog on Facebook.  I’m not fully enlightened after all.

After my first “No Facebook Tuesday”, I noticed the amount of emails dropped considerably, meaning that the number of times I pounced on my smart phone was greatly lessened.  I was able to live my real life.   I was more focused and present for my morning radio show. I read a great book, with no dinging interruptions, cooked a couple of meals, talked to my husband, meditated, went about my daily business with my eyes forward, rather than looking down at the glowing screen.

Quite a lesson learned in a 24 hour period. The bottom line is that Facebook isn’t the problem. I am the problem.  I allow my monkey brain to take over my life.  I must comment, I must opine, I must win this argument, I must plan and analyze and prepare for every eventuality.  And then, if anyone disagrees or challenges me, I MUST respond.

Buddhism is a way for me to dampen these compulsions; to quiet the monkey brain.  To allow life to unfold; to come to me as it will, minus my white knuckle grip on control.  This is truth for me.  The only thing I can control is me and my reactions to whatever plops in front of me.  I am choosing contemplation and meditation over confrontation these days.  It’s hard, but I am gaining a sense of clarity and lightness that has been missing for years.

February 9, 2013 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Breaking up is hard to do……

A friend of mine posted an old proverb on her Facebook page that said, “habits are at first cobwebs, then cables”.  Boy, ain’t that the truth!  And for many of us, they morph from cobwebs, to cables, to chains, to cages!

I’ve been working on trying to break some unhealthy habits for the better part of a year and the analogy of the proverb is accurate.  They start out innocently enough, perhaps from some catalyst in your life that requires action. In many cases these habits or behaviors start out as productive and protective, but over the years, they fossilize into something that is hard, crusty and paralyzing.

For me, it’s control of well… everything.  I had slowly taken over the majority of responsibilities in our household, based mostly on the belief that ‘it’s easier to do it yourself’.  Sound familiar?  This is of course, in addition to being a control freak about my job as a radio host.  It got to the point where I felt completely overwhelmed, confused and downright panicky.  I was seriously thinking of walking away from my career, my marriage was rocky and my own personal substance abuse problem was rearing it’s ugly head…again.  Drunk, panicky and miserable is not a good place to be.  And it most certainly doesn’t allow for a proactive approach to what’s bugging you.

So, first habit to go:  Alcohol.  Which is kind of interesting, because I’ve found that addictions can sometimes be easier to kick, than something that is merely a bad habit.  I can’t gradually stop drinking; it has to be cold turkey.  I can’t have one or two drinks like most people and so when the booze goes, it GOES.  I’m not saying it’s easy and I’m most certainly not saying that it won’t come back to haunt me sometime in the future, but having to give something up completely can actually be easier than making other behavioral alterations.  I should know; I’ve done it several times.  (Fingers crossed)

However, with the whole control thing, I’ve had to pick and choose what to completely let go of and so, that old habit doesn’t die, it’s merely suppressed or lessened.  Which means that you are still sort of in control of some things and not others and those boundaries sometimes blur and you’re right back in the driver’s seat, clutching the steering wheel AGAIN!  Without help and vigilance, you can fall right back into the chains of that habit.

If you dig a little bit, being a control freak is really about trust.  Oh, here we go: trust issues, right?  Jane is learning “therapy-speak”.  Actually, I figured this one out for myself after a great deal of introspection and all of that good stuff.  Having to maintain complete control of your little bubble on earth, is really about not trusting anyone else to be able to meet your very high standards.  Control freaks secretly, or not-so-secretly, believe that we’re smarter than everyone around us.  Only WE could possibly juggle all of these responsibilities;  anyone else would screw everything up!  So, at a certain point you have to ask yourself, “why the hell did I surround myself with such incompetents”???????  Or, you ask yourself a more healthy question:  “what the hell am I doing?  I’m panicked, overwhelmed, miserable to be around and I’m screwing everything up.”  At that point, you might want to delegate some of your extremely important duties (like balancing the checkbook, grocery shopping, and changing the sheets) to someone else.

As I’ve mentioned in some previous posts, I’ve been reading quite a bit about Buddhism and have been incorporating meditation into my daily life. What I’ve found appealing is they are both about ‘letting go’; of control, craving, anger, frustration, bitterness, striving.  I’ve begun to realize that I can only live effectively in the present, rather than dwelling on the past or worrying about the future.  Life is temporary and constantly changing and evolving.  Struggling to somehow control the infinite variables that influence and affect our lives is futile and causes a great deal of distress.  The more we try and control and influence, the more unhappy and ineffective we become. Think it over; see if you can’t find examples in your own life, where it might be better to just quit grasping, clinging, shoving; let it go, let it play out, don’t try and influence.

Here is something that I learned in swim class as a kid.  We were told that the worst thing to do if you find yourself in water that’s over your head, is to panic.  Don’t struggle; relax and you’ll float to the surface, where you can breathe and begin to swim to safety.

Let’s try it.  Next time, we’re struggling to influence or move or control a situation to suit our needs, stop; just float.

April 17, 2010 Posted by | Musings | , , , | 8 Comments


%d bloggers like this: