Five year journey, part 2

(Part 1 here)

Sometimes, I think that I have undiagnosed ADHD. I relate too well to descriptions of people with ADD etc. Apparently, December children are overrepresented on the ADD spectrum. I am a December child. My therapist did point out that it doesn’t really matter if I have ADD or not; I hold down a job, own my own condo, have no bill collectors chasing me, etc. I adult just fine.

The thing about being scatterbrained (besides needing to write everything down) is that things requiring a lot of discipline remain out of reach. I have, for years, disappointed myself in not being driven to try a 90 minute daily practice of yoga and meditation because enlightenment sounds so cool!

Instead, I’ve done the spiritual equivalent of the buffet: A little of this, a little of that. Restless, curious, easily wowed, easily bored. Some things seep in and stick, though. 

A few of my spiritual books. The wide unnamed one is a worn copy of “A Course in Miracles”, I gave a new cover.

A few of my spiritual books. The wide unnamed one is a worn copy of “A Course in Miracles”, I gave a new cover.

I was raised by a grandma who was into New Thought, theosophy and astrology. Her wisdom and guidance and free thinking guided me during some crucial years. The idea that God is not a being but Love has stuck with me ever since my mother introduced me to Science of Mind at age 17. Affirmations have stuck with me. I used guided meditation a lot in college and it mitigated my scatteredness; I was able to focus and remember better. But I did that sort of thing on a whim or once a week or whenever. The experience and knowledge didn’t leave me; it became what I call my spiritual toolbox.

My spiritual toolbox contains the fruit of many classes, books, sermons and seminars over the years. Affirmations, faith, astrology,  meditations, yoga, etheric oils, reiki, crystals, Tarot, etc. I can tell you this: There is one constant and that is Love. If whatever you are being taught or told is not promoting goodness, it’s not True. I have also remembered Grandma’s words that God will always be stronger than any tool I use (such as astrology); a reminder to commune with spiritual source. 

The thing is, I have disappointed myself by not having routines, for not having a regular practice, for not being disciplined. This has applied to both the spiritual and the physical.

Yet, here at the start of 2019, I know I’m not the same as in 2018. When panic starts, I recognize it far more quickly than before and I stop it far more quickly. It no longer becomes something I must care about; it’s just there and I shove it aside. 

It has occured to me that this is something to be proud of. That I have, in spite of my monkey brain, been able to do the work that has changed my thinking and beliefs and will continue to do so. I know that it’s very important not to get frustrated. Feeling forced or “shoulding” myself is not healthy or helpful and just makes me want to abandon whatever it is I’m trying.

I took small steps. I talked with my therapists and healers and friends, sorted my thoughts and my beliefs, journaled a bit, found a meditation that let me visit my childhood, and talked some more. Bit by bit, a new structure took form. The thing is, it wasn’t just one thing and it certainly wasn’t just one steady thing, as in daily or regularly. My curiosity drove me to books and articles, learning about complex PTSD, about mantras that can heal depression, about my own family dynamics.

Learning the Gayatri mantra by heart in the shower

Learning the Gayatri mantra by heart in the shower

And I have realized something: Having variety is what works for me. The moment the novelty wears off, so does my dedication. But switching it up a bit or keeping it short is doable. For example, my I-planned-to-this-daily yoga routine is 15 minutes long and I choose to target different body parts each time. My morning Om chanting takes only as long as it takes for my tea kettle to boil (about 2 minutes), maybe a minute longer. That’s it.

For years, I’ve recited a “prayer” on my walk to work. I’ve used it for so many years, I can’t remember its source. It goes like this:

Close your eyes or focus on something natural, like clouds or trees or a flower. Hold your palms open and facing up, if you can. Breathe in while saying silently to yourself, “I breathe in the cosmic forces of the Universe, asking for strength protection and guidance.” Exhale. Repeat once. 

If you want something extra, do this a third time, changing what you say after the comma. My standard is “…asking that each and every encounter with each and every person be a joy and a blessing for all concerned.” If I have more things I’m concerned about, I end up holding my breath for quite a bit!

The above is now part of a new morning routine, one that got tacked onto a regular activity I do. The best way to start a new habit is to stick it to an existing one. (My problem is that I don’t have many existing regular habits.) So, while my tea kettle boils water for my morning coffee, I do 9 Om chants (because I like 9) while raising and lowering my arms, then I do the cosmic forces prayer. I now also start with some yoga forward bends which help loosen me up.

I’ve tried apps. They are rarely a perfect fit so I lose interest or get frustrated. I also don’t want my cell phone in bed with me. So something I can do myself, that involves my body, seems to be a better method.

Bitmoji_Aw_Yeah.png

I finally own my flighty self; I acknowledge and accept that buffet-style is what works for me. I no longer want to be someone else, be different. I can accept who I am, how I function. I’m not stupid or irresponsible; I just have to understand what motivates me and what helps me.

When it comes to my own mental health, I have done what matters. I have listened to all my helpers, and I continue to listen to them. I have taken responsibility for my healing, in my own way.

I’m not usually proud of myself, but this time I am! Yes!

At the root: Fractals

"Once physical disease is ruled out, it is time to consider the root cause of most mental depression: a lack of love and connection in life (not a lack of serotonin)."

Source: Wikipedia Commons

Source: Wikipedia Commons

Via Paula's blog comes the idea of grabbing some book, going to page 62 and line 6 on that page to use for a blog post. I opened Kindle to the last book I'd been reading (Graves MD, Harrison. Mantra Meditation: An Alternative Treatment For Anxiety And Depression (pp. 62-63). Novus Energia. Kindle Edition) and Kindle being what it is, I chose what it claimed was page 62 and what was the sixth paragraph (or line shift, if you will) because the sixth line was a header. My sixth paragraph is the quote above.

The quote also echos another book I'm reading: The Shack. I saw a quote paraphrased from it on Facebook: "Why am I here?" "Because this is where you got stuck." That resonated with me, so I decided to reread the book.

I'm stuck, you see. Stuck somewhere in the past. Stuck with habits that served me in the past but aren't serving me now. I'm trying to get myself unstuck.

That right there, though, is part of my problem, my challenge: I am trying to get myself unstuck. Me, by myself. Just like the protagonist in "The Shack", I haven't been willing to just trust in the Divine, to devote myself to that trust.

I'm not in a good place right now, so today I called in sick and stayed home and read. So many good lines in this book, but the one that suddenly had me bawling was the description of the protagonist's soul: A messy but beautiful garden, rich in layers and details:

[T]his garden is your soul. This mess is you! Together, you and I, we have been working with a purpose in your heart. And it is wild and beautiful and perfectly in process. To you it seems like a mess, but to me, I see a perfect pattern emerging and growing and alive— a living fractal.

Young, William P.. The Shack (p. 138). Hodder & Stoughton. Kindle Edition.

Fractal. And the tears started. The whole paragraph made me cry, but the word "fractal" was the trigger.

You see, in all my attempts and trying to understand not only myself, but humanity, the planet, the universe, it seems to me that the best model to understand it all is fractals. 

Fractals are a seemingly complex image but it is made out of many smaller images that look exactly like itself. If you keep zooming in on a fractal, you just see—the fractal. It doesn't change and it can go on forever. It's eternal and no matter where you, what viewpoint you have, you are seeing the fractal. 

Where do patterns repeat? All over, in many ways. Some examples:

  • We marry someone who is like that same-gendered parent, and we repeat our parents' marital pattern.

  • Stressors we experience as adults actually go back to our childhoods.

  • The model for an atom looks just like the model for our solar system.

  • Under a microscope, neurons and ganglia look like the roads of a metropolitan area.

  • Anything you need to learn and heal in this lifetime can be found in this lifetime; you don't need a past life regression.

Sure, you could call that macro and micro. For me, the fractal idea is a better visual description. It shows why the macro and the micro have so much in common.

The other thing about fractals, is the repetition. You keep repeating something simple and you end with something complex, like the broccoli pictured above. Also, something about the growth, about it never wavering from its original pattern was what got to me in a good way while reading today. It's another way to have eternity.

Repetition shows up in another way, too: In all the help I have received, in all the friends I have who can relate, in all the messages abounding about how to approach the Divine, how to have a regular, spiritual practice and a regular, spiritual connection. This isn't my first time trying to figure stuff out, but I'm hoping it'll be the last time I'm in this much pain. (I admire those of you who have struggled with depression your whole lives and still keep going.)

Something has been growing, in spite of my efforts to ignore it. Some gardener has been tending to my soul, to that which is good and right with me, underneath the veneer of human life. It is time for me to join in the gardening.

Let me just finish the book first.

Back to the beginning

I tripped over a book on using yogic mantras to help with anxiety and depression. So I said OM a lot this morning, and maybe that's exactly what I needed to get going again (as well as three days of rest and downtime).

I once upon a time, back in California, meditated and chanted OM, so I dove in and played with harmonies, with going silent, with going up an octave or two, and even whispering. You can do it all. Or just repeat internally, soundlessly.

The OM on YouTube (you don't need to read the book): The Cosmic AUM

The book that led me there: Mantra Meditation: An Alternative Treatment For Anxiety And Depression

Those who wander

"Not all those who wander are lost." —J.R.R. Tolkien

Let me just say—as someone who loved to get lost in an encyclopedic dictionary when she was a kid, wandering from definition to definition like exploring room after room in a pre-computer adventure game—that this is one of my favorite quotes.

And that love of following a path to discover more, especially in words, made me love html and hyperlinks. That's what the internet is: A huge encyclopedia with cross-references all over and "see …" everywhere. The encyclopedic dictionary I lost myself in also included a list of the meanings of names, a thesaurus, famous quotes, as well as French, German and Spanish dictionaries. It was published by Reader's Digest, and it is one thing I sometimes wish I'd taken with me when Grandma died.

But then I remember I have the internet. So off I go, wondering if "vague" has anything to do with the vagus nerve, and it does. The Latin root of both words means to wander, and that is also clear in the word "vagabond", a word borrowed from the French in both Norwegian and English that means a transient person, a traveler, a wanderer.

That reminds me: I know nothing about the vagus nerve. (Search, click a link, jump to a definition…) Ah, it is called the roaming or wandering nerve because it meanders around as it travels through the neck, chest and abdomen supplying organs and structures on its way. Basically your good ol' local bus.

I'll have to look up the meaning of "bus" one of these days.

 

The Daily Prompt: Vague

Feeling like Clover

I don't often post about politics. Mainly, it's because I don't have the intellectual capacity to understand and engage. I therefore understand those who vote with their gut, because I do, too. But I do get impressions from the world around me and right now, it looks like it is reenacting "Animal Farm". I know that George Orwell wrote "Animal Farm" (and later "1984") as an allegory for the communist revolution in Russia, but the allegory applies to any situation where the leader of a change or revolution ends up betraying it. Everyone plays a role: The leader, the leader's right-hand man, the idealists, the purists, the skeptics, the counter-revolutionists, the followers.

It's been a while since I read "Animal Farm", but I remember one of the horses from the story, one of the last who could remember how it all started, but couldn't quite grasp the details of it, partly because she couldn't read. I have looked up a list of characters and the one I'm thinking of is Clover.

Clover, as I recall, was told, as the animal uprising against their human owner began, that four feet are better than two (with exceptions made for chickens). She happily agreed with that premise. Much later, she was told that two feet are better than four, which confused her because that wasn't how she remembered it. The revolutionary leaders, the pigs, told her she was mistaken, and, trusting them, she believed them.

The US, as of this writing, with Donald J. Trump as president, seems to be adopting changes and laws that remind many of us of the changes that happened in Germany under Adolf Hitler's rule, which lead us into a world war. Racism, protectionism and nationalism are on the rise. These forces are dividing the world into "us" and "them" and painting "them" as inferior, dangerous and unwanted. Like in Germany in the 1930's, it starts with skin color, then other ethnic or cultural categories, then financial class, then educational or political class… I think that's the order.

You see, I'm Clover. I remember being taught this history and how it started, what the forces were that led up to it and then allowed it, but I can't remember the details. I want to. I feel there is something I should know to keep us from derailing, but I also feel that the only way to find out is to read a world history book from start to finish, all over again.

There is another part of history that seems to be repeating itself: The Cultural Revolution of China. China is starting to crack down on religious citizens, on Christians, and it is also starting to "sort" people according to their accomplishments and income. It's the 1960's all over again.

The world is about to burn, and I know somewhere deep inside my brain how the match got struck. I want to remember so maybe I can warn people.

But like Clover, I find that the details escape me, the information that was once fresh has gone stale and even missing. And it worries me. My gut tells me we are nearing a cliff and we need to turn around. We need to remember we are all "us".