Category Archives: mindfulness

Post-election Thoughts (and Feeeeeeeelings)

Another four years of this man? Thank you, don’t mind if I do.

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But here’s the truth, the real, raw honesty of it: election night was one of the most anxious nights of my life, and I spent it huddled under a blanket on the couch, shrieking at Lovie to TURN THE CHANNEL BACK TO SCOTT PELLEY any time a commercial break came on during our recorded episode of 30 Rock (because Lovie, being the smart one in the family, thought it would be more relaxing to spend the evening with Tina Fey than Karl Rove).

After Ohio’s results began to reveal Obama’s lead, I did relax a little. I opened a beer, checked Facebook and Twitter and CNN and the Huffington Post, and suddenly I was hit with such a wave of sadness that the first beer magically disappeared and I had to open a second.

Divided Minnesota (image found on Google)

Here’s what bums me out: seeing the graphics and numbers on the screen, I realized that being divided is the only way our country knows how to exist. It’s our modus operandi: the country is neatly split in ideological halves. So is each state, and each city and county. The marriage amendment in Minnesota was knocked down only by the slimmest of margins (thanks to the tremendous efforts of a hard-working, compassionate group of people who tirelessly fought for my civil rights these past few months), which means that 48% of the voters in my own state turned up at their polling places Tuesday morning and filled in a circle indicating their preference that I never marry. Forty-eight percent!

This divide keeps going, so that if you reduce our country to its most basic form, you get this: two people who hate each other.

No, I think it goes even further than that, actually. It’s one person, having an argument in her head with another imaginary person and feeling helpless and oppressed by this fictional interaction (this just happened to me an hour ago as I was toweling off from the shower). Every problem in our country and in our world is already a problem in our own minds.

Shirley asks that you please be kind to one another.

When the post-victory buzz wore off and I was solemnly eating toast and watching my Facebook friend count drop Wednesday morning (apparently not everyone is a fan of picture of Obama without his shirt on), I realized that the only way to begin moving in the direction of unity is for every person to begin with himself. Stop that nasty chatter in your mind about the miserable day you had yesterday, and what you could have said to that Republican Evangelical from your home town who claimed that Obamacare requires all Christians to have microchips implanted in their bodies, and stop hating on Donald Trump, and Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan and that other Evangelical on Facebook who said the country’s in the toilet because Obama prays to Allah every day.*

Because that half of the country is just like the restless half of your mind that refuses to stop ruminating and worrying and being anxious: it needs love, and the gentlest touch of kindness.

Sometimes I feel like getting really worked up with anger is the best thing that could happen to me, because it gives me the chance to take a good, clear look at my own reactive patterns. It gets violent up in there, in my mind, so it’s no wonder that our country, which is simply a telescoped version of our inner lives, is so messed up. Since the only thing I have control over is how I choose to react to all the crap that I encounter, I may as well spend my time practicing how to manage that control. And watching 30 Rock.

*Just kidding. It was the same Evangelical.

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Thinking about thinking: also, a poodle and her tennis ball

I’m a bad blogger, it’s true. I don’t have a good excuse. I’m just busy with life being very good–a topic for another entry, another day.

So I finally listened to the Radiolab podcast episode called “Voices in Your Head.” I’ve been carrying this around on my iPod for awhile now, afraid to listen because I thought this might be the episode that confirms I’m completely nuts, but I finally got up the courage (sunny morning, hot cup of tea) to hit play on the bus ride to work yesterday.

So meta: Lev Vygotsky, thinking about thinking about thoughts.

They discuss a concept first introduced by a psychologist named Lev Vygotsky, a man who may only be 88% consonants but is ALL Russian. Vygotky posited that perhaps the reason we “hear” voices in our surface-level, narrative thoughts is because we’ve absorbed the dialogues we had with our parents when we were just diaper-wearing kiddos, arguing with Mom about how it’s none of her business why our hand is in our pants again. In essence, then, none of our thoughts are intrinsically ours.

This episode was a nice complement to the incredible weekend I just spent at a retreat with Dr. Richard Davidson and Matthieu Ricard (Google them!–they’re the scientist and the monk behind the new neuroplasticity*/science of meditation craze), where Matthieu spoke at some length about the Buddhist concept of emptiness. (There is no nutshell, but in a nutshell, nothing exists inherently on its own; everything is dependent on the causes and conditions of other things).

Davidson & Ricard

Made me think that if he were still alive, Lev Vygotky might have been an interesting third party to the excellent team that Dr. Davidson and Matthieu comprise. I know he would have loved all the gadgets they’ve got up in the lab.

Also, I got Pema Chodron’s new book and, as usual, she’s fresh and fly and full of the choicest wisdom. If you order it from Shambhala Publications, you get a free gift with it, too–The Pocket Pema Chodron, which is good to consult when you’re having trouble practicing loving-kindness because your poodle keeps pushing the tennis ball under the couch and won’t stop crying until you get flat on your belly and stick your arm into the dust-bunny circus beneath to retrieve it. Over and over and over and over again.

*When Microsoft Word stops putting a red line under the word “neuroplasticity,” then we’ll know it’s real.

Instagrammed Rainbows

I was on a walk with the poodle this evening when I happened to look up and see the most fantastic and vivid rainbow arching gracefully above our neighborhood. I’m talking Roy G. Biv, full spectrum, 275 ppi resolution. Angels playing trumpets, all that.

It’s been raining like crazy in Minnesota and flooding so hard that seals are washing up in the streets (you think I’m kidding but I’m not), so a handsome rainbow shining from the heavens isn’t such a rare sight, but the clarity of this one took my breath away.

What also took my breath away was the fact that the second my eyes moved up and took in the rainbow, before my brain had even had a chance to say, ‘Wow, what a freaking awesome sight,’ my hand was already in the pocket of my hoodie, rooting around for my iPhone, so I could snap a picture of the rainbow and upload it to Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest so that people I know could like/share/follow/tag the rainbow and comment things like, ‘Wow, what a freaking awesome sight that is’ or ‘Holy cow, is that a freaking awesome sight or what.’

But you know what–I left my iPhone in the apartment somehow, in my rush to get the poodle out and around the neighborhood while the rain was holding off. Yeah, I was super disappointed. But I took my hand out of my pocket and tried to remember what my yoga teacher had said just an hour earlier while I was huffing and puffing indelicately through a deep Warrior pose. Something about seeing the moment you want to escape the pose, and then just staying there, with the ache of it.

So I decided to just accept the rainbow as a rainbow and give up all desire to immortalize the moment. I stood on the sidewalk, feet pressed on the cement, the world holding my body up, and looked at the sky. I stayed with the rainbow, and I stayed, for just a fleeting moment, with the disappointment and the sadness that blossoms from the realization of how impermanent everything is.

It was a freaking awesome and beautiful moment.

The poodle gazed up with me, a robin’s egg casually wedged in her cheek, her heart full of hope that I would not see it so she could carry it all the way home and place it under our pillows for safekeeping. I did see it, I took it from her mouth, and then we walked home together.

Anyway, it didn’t matter–I got home, logged into Facebook, there, in all its pixelated glory, was the rainbow, forever memorialized in my newsfeed by no less than eight different friend(ster)s.