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

Stream of consiousness….

I’m in a rut.  And you?  I guess we have to define it first and that might be tricky because I suspect that my rut ain’t the same as yours.  Mine might be partly due to where I live, which is in a small town in the Rocky Mountains, northwest of Denver.  It’s cold and snowy and during the winter, you feel pretty isolated from your neighbors.

This year, the snow has been sporadic, which isn’t optimal for a community that thrives on skiing and the visitors the ski resort brings in.  My husband and I usually ski several times a week, but this year the conditions have cut our outings considerably.  This equates to too much time in the house sitting and thinking.   Too much togetherness, too much time spent watching uninspiring TV.  I feel like I’m waiting for something, anything to happen.  A rut.

Some of my friends have advised me to move closer to ‘the city’, but I’m not sure that would solve my problem, which if I’m honest, is 80 percent internal.  I spend time in the city and although there is much more to do and the conveniences are a lot more….well, convenient, I suspect that city living can be just as rut-inducing as rural life.  Seems as if the typical city/suburb dweller spends an inordinate amount of time in their car, shuttling kids, commuting to and from work, running errands and that’s stressful and tedious.  The more stuff and conveniences you have around you, the more compelled you are to ‘run out for a few things’.  So, you can be in a sort of suspended animation with few choices or suspended animation with too many.  I’ll take the former for my rut.

I know this about myself: I need space and more importantly, I need nature; in large doses.  I can be impatient and I often demand instant gratification.  Nature enforces patience, solitude and to a certain extent, doing without certain conveniences (like Whole Foods or Bed, Bath and Beyond and worst of all, Target!).    As I write this, I’m looking out of the window at a snow covered meadow, where we routinely see foxes hunting and playing, mule deer grazing and occasionally a moose or two.  As I was driving early yesterday morning, I saw two beautiful snowshoe hares.  They’re so white in the winter that they are absolutely luminous.  Every time I see one, it takes my breath away. In the spring, they go back to a brownish-gray color and are impossible to spot.  Patience.

Spring takes forever to arrive at 9000 feet and so I’m perusing seed catalogs for a garden I won’t be able to plant until June (if nature cooperates) and we eyeball our firewood supply, hoping we won’t have to dig through 3 feet of snow for more.  We get the hummingbird feeders out in late April to have them ready for the arrival of our harbingers of summer, who show up every year, without fail, by the second week in May.  Patience.

Look, I know that for a lot of you, this is a foreign concept.  You’re happy and fulfilled and I envy you.  I know that I spend way too much time in my own brain; thinking, planning, worrying, plotting, ‘what iffing’, which is probably why I’m sitting and writing, when I could be out ‘doing stuff’ on a Saturday morning.  I require a lot of solitude to recharge my batteries, which can also begin to drive you a little crazy.

So, I guess it’s perfect timing that my husband is out of town for a few days because the effect has been a break in our routine.  I think that sometimes we have such symbiotic relationships among spouses, kids and maybe even co-workers, that we move in tandem.  We’re almost tied together with strings and we share habits, routines, comfort zones.  With him out of town, I feel free to move differently.  For instance, yesterday I listened to ‘my’ music most of the afternoon, without feeling like I was imposing on anyone else.  I grazed, instead of fixing a meal for both of us; I turned off the TV and went to bed with a book and read late into the night.  All things that I don’t do when living in symbiosis with my husband.

A minor shift in my universe and I feel less rutted today.  Better….and you?

February 11, 2012 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , , , , | 6 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


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