The Uncarved Block

I feel like a snake who continues to wear its old skin. Even though it no longer fits. Even though it smells. Even though it hurts to breathe. Even though it’s bulging, tearing, and completely unflattering. Even though the soft, new skin is being rubbed raw by the husk of my former self. There is nothing wrong with my life except that it is no longer a reflection of who I am/who I am becoming. I have been struggling to write for the last few weeks. It’s not for a lack of inspiration and it is certainly not for lack of emotion. If anything my emotions might be too big right now. I just can’t process them into convenient bite-sized pieces. It is like trying to eat the whole apple tree, when each apple is in and of itself a fully realized poem. 

I am trying to learn to ride a bike. Yes I am an adult. No, I didn’t learn as a child. My first memory of learning to ride a bike was when I was 5. I got a bike for Christmas. I was super excited. My dad took me out to the street in front of our house to practice. He was drunk. He tried for a few minutes. I don’t remember much of what happened during that short lesson. Both my parents were screaming. At me. At each other. At themselves deep down. When I didn’t catch on after a few minutes my parents decided to sell the bike. It was a waste of money. I was unteachable. They sold the bike.

When I was 10 my aunt’s boyfriend decided to teach me to ride a bike. We had never met before that moment but he was very patient/kind. My cousin decided it would be fun to unscrew the handlebars in secret so the lesson started out with a not so pleasant surprise. I managed to get over that little incident and continued with my practice (handlebars secure). My aunt lived in a very hilly area. The bike started to pick up a lot of speed while going down a brutal hill. I got scared and hit the brakes unexpectedly. The man teaching me flew over the handlebars and rolled down the hill and there wasn’t a damn thing I could do to stop him. I remember running down that hill, blood dripping down my legs, scared that he might be seriously injured or worse. He was all crumpled up. He was okay but it scared the shit out of me. He wasn’t upset and luckily he wasn’t seriously hurt. He was as worried about me as I was about him. After that I never seemed to be able to get on a bike without intense fear.

A few days ago I started. Short sessions. 2 days into my own lessons and my daughter was riding her bike down the driveway and hit a car (a moving car). She was going pretty fast because of the intense incline on the driveway. She wasn’t wearing a helmet. All summer she has been inside playing video games so I was happy that she wanted to do something active. A few minutes after she left a woman rang the doorbell and asked me if I had a daughter. She then told me my daughter had been hit by a car. I have no idea what I felt. I have no idea what I said, if anything. She broke her collarbone and has various bruises and scrapes. It could have been much, much worse. She could have hit her head. She has informed me that she will never ride a bike again, that she has learned her lesson. The next day I went out and practiced some more. I knew I had to go out as soon as possible because if I didn’t then the fear would likely immobilize me. Hopefully by learning to ride a bike, my daughter will have the courage to try again.

I am so tired of living in fear. Happiness, authentic happiness only occurs when you step outside of your comfort zone.

I don’t have the greatest attitude when it comes to learning new things. As a kid learning new things often corresponded with abuse (physical, emotional, and/or sexual) so I tend to get defensive. I can’t change what happened in the past but I can change my attitude going forward. I have decided to adopt more of an “Uncarved Block” approach to life. Life is an adventure. I am a student and the obstacles I encounter along the way are for the benefit of my growth and development. I can be grateful while still taking responsibility for my own happiness. I can be grateful while still releasing what needs to be released. I don’t have to hang on to beliefs that do not serve me. I don’t have to devote all my energy into becoming a round peg. I don’t even want to be a round peg. Society rarely measures success in healthy/compassionate ways. So why should I adopt societies’ standards of beauty? They don’t reflect my standards. Why should I adopt any belief system or way of being that makes me miserable/cripples me/sucks me dry/causes harm to myself and those I love? I am starting to realize more and more that we create our own lives/experiences and that if nothing else we can always change our perspective. I have spent so much of my life struggling and fighting. When I am practicing on the bike. I fight it. I don’t let the bike do what it was designed to do. I come in thinking that somehow I can outwit the basic principles of physics and mechanics. Sometimes though I forget all that, I forget my fear, my pride, and just for a moment I think “Weee!”. I want to have more fun with my life, whatever shape my life takes, whoever comes along for the ride.

There are a lot of changes taking place both within me and in my life right now. My very identity is being re-written. Maybe even my fucking DNA. I don’t know. All I know is that I want to be on this journey.

I never really learned how to deal with the fact that someone might someday love me back. I have spent so much effort in protecting/destroying/redefining my ego. What the ego perceives is not reality, it is illusion. Yet I invest all my efforts into supporting a view of life/reality which is not only false but incredibly fucking limiting and unpleasant. My ego was shaped in tragedy by people who were themselves deeply traumatized. If I accept my ego as the sole component of my identity it is the same thing as letting my traumas define me. Don’t get my wrong ego has its place/its function but the ego doesn’t speak from a place of love and compassion, it speaks from a place of fear. The ego seeks only to justify itself at the expense of others. You see there are no absolutes, no one-size fits all philosophies, no living being that does not evolve. We each create our own truths. We bring those truths with us to every situation and it evolves with us because it has to, because we are not static, because we are not dead. Everyone of us is gifted with intuition. Instinctively we know where we belong. We know when we have acted or spoken in a way which is not consistent with our truth. Our bodies react to it. We know when we first encounter someone if we want to get closer by the way we feel because we feel something which wakes us up/because they challenge the limited perceptions imposed by our egos. The ego screams danger, danger, whenever anyone or anything challenges the status quo and when we let ego dictate our lives entirely we limit love. We limit our creativity. We limit abundance. We limit our ability to grow spiritually and emotionally. The ego will always choose addiction over love.

Dear Self

Dear Self,

If you are going to survive in this world you need to possess a sense of self which supports its own evolution. You are not a definition in a text book. You are not a checklist. You are not limited by the opinions of others. You are dynamic. Organic. Once in a lifetime. 

Do you really want to let your pride prevent you from being happy? Is being right really that important? Is maintaining a certain image more important than the freedom that comes through genuine acts of self-expression? Do you really need affirmation for what your heart knows to be the truth? Would you rather spend your life telling beautiful lies to a room full of critical strangers or would you rather live a beautiful life rubbed raw by the naked truth? I know that sometimes it hurts having a heart but know this a heart is never a cage when open. So if someone or something intrigues you explore it if you can.

If you have to be something, be weird. Be you. Not everyone is going to read your story. Not everyone that you invite into your life is going to accept the invitation. Some people might even question your motives but as long as you know that your intentions were good, then there is nothing to fear in it. There are going to be plenty of people who simply don’t get you. That’s okay. You are no less you, for a misunderstanding. You are no less you in the face of rejection. Never be ashamed of yourself for feeling. Love lest of all. Love is too beautiful to fill with doubt.

I want to remind you of a story. For most people this would be an embarrassing story but not for you. This story marks a pivotal moment in your emotional development. In the 6th grade you fell in love for the first time. There you were sitting across from your crush for some dreaded/not so dreaded group work laughing and chatting like it was no big deal. Sometimes even shy girls have days where they lose themselves in the moment. You were laughing when it happened but not loud enough. You farted and everyone heard it. Now you could have denied it, you could have run crying out of the classroom, you could have passed along the blame, you could have froze but no. You looked that boy straight in the face and you said “That was me. I farted.” And then you busted out laughing. Not that self-conscious laughter either but deep belly laughter. Everyone in group laughed. Not at you but with you and just like that it was forgotten and never mentioned again by your classmates. Your crush though was pretty impressed. There is something liberating about owning yourself. You see relationships come and go. But you have to live with yourself day in and day out. Spiritually. Emotionally. Physically. What hurts isn’t peer rejection. It is rejection of the self. So the next time someone takes a hard pass remember that I still have your back.

Lucid Dreaming Tips

I have been meaning to write this blog for a while. So here goes my tips for Lucid Dreaming!

 

  1. Practice mindfulness. Throughout the day check in with yourself/become your own personal narrator. Describe how you are feeling. Describe in detail what you are doing presently. Describe your environment paying special attention to each of your senses. State your intentions/goals for the day. If possible speak out loud. Point out anything beautiful/intriguing/unusual that you happen to come across throughout your day. Get in the habit of asking yourself questions. Breathe consciously. Feel yourself inside of your body. For many people it helps to set a specific cue to test for wakefulness. I bite my tongue or cheek.
  2. Practice mindfulness when asleep. This will be much easier if you have established the habit in your waking life. Ask lots of questions! Fact check with yourself. Who am I? When is my birthday? Where am I? Approach the characters in your dream. Unlike in real life dream characters will sometimes struggle to provide basic information particularly about their identities. They may also give nonsensical or nonstandard answers to basic questions such as “What is your name?” and “How are you doing?”
  3. Check in with your senses. If you notice that your senses are impaired this can be a good indication that you are in an altered state of consciousness.
  4. Once you have identified that something weird is going on. Try asking yourself “Is this a dream?” Usually the question alone is enough to elicit awareness. I ask myself this when I am awake and spaced out as well. Once you feel pretty sure that you are asleep, say confidently “This is a dream.” Just saying those words should leave you feeling pretty empowered.
  5. Once you have established that you are asleep, focus on your body. Focus on your feet in particular. Imagine the ground underneath them as solid. In dreams it’s suggested that you float around, don’t float walk (you can fly later).
  6. Once you have centered yourself and you’re comfortable in your dream body then you can start exploring. Before you change anything I recommend exploring the dream in progress. I find it difficult to stay asleep during a lucid dream because of the heightened sensory input. You need to give yourself time to adjust.
  7. Before you make major changes start with smaller changes. Explore what your body can do. Try jumping really high or flying around.
  8. If you want to dream about a specific person, invite them into your dream. Say it out loud before bed and then in the dream ask for them by name. Ask the dream characters if they have seen so and so or if they are so and so. Look for so and so behind doors and in various places you might expect to find them, maybe in places where you have met them in real life. Call them or text them in the dream and invite them to a location just as you would in real life. Consent is important even in a dream! Always treat them with respect.
  9. To manipulate the content of your dream it is important for you to understand what type of learner you are. I am a read/write learner which means that if I want to program myself to dream about a certain thing it works better if I write down in detail what I want to dream about or if I read about the places I would like to visit during the day (for some it works best to do it right before bed). If you are a visual learner you will have a lot more success looking at pictures or watching movies. Obviously it helps if you can visualize well in your waking life. The more senses you can recruit in your visualizations the better but for those of you who are very one-sided, one-tract learners like me you can achieve faster results by focusing on what you are best at.
  10. It can be enough to simply state your destination in the dream. “I want to go to Paris.” Your brain should already have plenty of stored information about Paris to aid you in your re-creation. 
  11. Ask the dream characters to perform certain actions and/or favors for you. Dream characters can get stuck on a script and be somewhat inflexible like NPCs in a game so you might not have much luck talking to them in an active/conscious way but stating what you want can still help it to manifest.
  12. Meditate daily. I have a lot of success using Lucid Dreaming Meditation Music which can be found on Youtube.
  13. Keep a dream journal. Keeping a dream journal can give you little insights and clues that will aid you in detecting dreams, it also sends a message to your brain that dreams are important and worth remembering.

 

Special Notes Nightmares

 

  1. The first step is to create a safe haven for yourself during your daily meditation practice. This can be an actual place or an imagined place. During the day whenever you are feeling stressed take a time out and visit your safe haven for a few minutes. With enough practice you will be able to visit your safe haven when asleep. You can also try closing your eyes within the dream and calling up a happy memory.
  2. Go into the dream knowing every character you meet is yourself (unless you have invited someone into the dream and this isn’t really possible unless you have a special bond). 
  3. When possible take the opportunity to do a little trauma therapy. The “villain” in any dream is just a wounded and/or neglected part of yourself. Ask them questions in a genuine attempt to get to know them better. Invite them back into your life. If possible attempt to brighten the space they are in (open the blinds, turn on the light, take them to a location with lots of natural light). Offer them comfort (a hug, a shoulder to cry on, a hand to hold, an ear if they want to talk). Offer forgiveness/acceptance. If at some point doing your therapy session you discover that they represent a younger version of yourself treat them as you would any child you wish to bond with and comfort.
  4. If someone is chasing you say “Goodbye” and walk away normally. If you scream or run they will just pursue you. If you come upon a terrifying scene close the door and move on.
  5. Say “I don’t like this dream. I want to dream of something else.” This works wonders for me.
  6. Use humor to diffuse the situation. If a villain is chasing me I will stop, turn around and run after them instead. You could even try turning it into a game by tapping them on the shoulder and saying “Tag your it!”
  7. Confuse them. Kiss or tickle them when they least expect it. Be prepared though if you kiss them they can occasionally turn quite amorous.
  8. If you’re really not feeling the dream vibes use lucid dreaming to change the scene altogether or simply wake up and try again! If the dream is really scary I will stay awake for several minutes before returning to sleep. If you wake up on your back, roll over. Sleeping on my back does improve my chances of lucid dreaming but I am also more likely to have nightmares when sleeping on my back.
  9. So what happens if the bad guy attacks you? Talk to them if you can try to deescalate the situation. If you can’t just kick their ass. It’s your dream and in a dream your power is unlimited.

Sunday Writing Prompt #235 “New Years Resolutions”

I wasn’t planning on writing anything. I have talked at length about my feelings on self-improvement. Mine is certainly not the most popular stance. I believe 90% of all self-improvement efforts come from a place of self-hatred rather than from a place self-acceptance. We often disguise acts of self-harm/self-abuse with pretty and placatory rhetoric but when the ultimate goal is erasure or truth distortion the outcome is never favorable long-term. All of our various qualities are essential to who we are and while degrees of said qualities vary, we are all human. I have found great sources of strength in my so-called flaws. Stubbornness = Determination. Impatience = Enthusiasm. You simply can’t possess one without the other, they are two sides of the same coin. So be careful what you wish for when building the new you and remember that you can never escape yourself no matter how much shit and/or glitter you adorn.

We waste so much effort in trying to control and micromanage every aspect of our lives. We even attempt to control one another in an effort to maintain a very limiting ego view! I have seen so many people push away friends and family when on a self-improvement kick all because their friends and family refuse to conform to their very limited world view. Obviously some relationships are truly abusive/unhealthy but I am not talking about those relationships. I am talking about your garden variety relationship. No relationship is perfect. There are no perfect people. And there is no magical state of homeostasis that occurs once you reach a goal that does not have to be maintained through continuous and conscientious effort. I work very hard to maintain my weight. In order to maintain my weight I have to exercise, I have to eat regular/balanced meals. If there is a magical stage where I can eat whatever I want and sit around on the sofa all day and still maintain my health and physique I have yet to enter it. Years of healthy eating have not released me from my cravings. Some people say that after they have been eating clean X number of months/years that their cravings subside. I can’t speak for them but for me this has not been the case. I crave bad food sometimes. I also crave vegetables sometimes. As I get older I am less attracted to certain desserts but what I never seem to do is lose my appetite. I have a voracious appetite and a passionate love of food. What’s the point of starving myself on a bland diet? What’s the point of killing my passion for food? Can’t this passion be harnessed? Cannot this not too be a strength?

I hated exercise when I was a child. As an adult I have learned to look forward to my workouts. I still hate running but there are lots of other styles of training that I genuinely enjoy. Has exercise gotten easier? Yes and no. I have certainly gotten into the habit of regular exercise. I have seen the benefits of regular exercise. I have to continually challenge my body. I have to sweat and struggle otherwise it’s not really exercise is it? Without opposition there can be no growth. Weight-loss though should just be a byproduct, a side-effect because once weight-loss is achieved most people either loss motivation and revert to their previous behaviors or they continue to starve themselves into horrific caricatures. Goals are important but goals that devalue you are more harmful than helpful.

Anyone can be more peaceful if they move to Buddhist retreat and live a simple, monotonous lifestyle where everyone around them more or less adheres to the same system of values and there is probably benefit in going on the occasional retreat but in the end growth comes from being challenged. My daughter often says I will be more positive when life goes my way, when I get my perfect moment. Every moment has its truth. We are never going to get our shit together, that’s not actually the point though is it? The fun is in the process. Life is in the process.

Doing things you hate to improve the quality of your life simply doesn’t work long-term. Embrace new experiences, fall in love with life and all those shallow imitations of happiness/fulfillment will naturally loosen their grip. If you think of change as a natural and organic process and you accept yourself (warts and all) you will get to a point where you start to make better choices, choices that promote mental/physical/spiritual health. Fuck the mold. Be like water.

For

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