Thursday, March 25, 2010

Silly Mind Cage Monkey Doo

I'm sorry about the length of this post. But you can be glad, at least, that it's not a book-length reflection on my battle with my hair. Long-time readers, you know what I'm talking about. I won't even link to the old blog and that awesome picture of me as Christy Turlington.

These thoughts have been rolling around in my noggin for a few days, so I'm just going to air them out, unfiltered, and see what happens (and yes, that is what I always do. Shut it).

I've been on this spiritual path, yeah? And one of the things that keeps coming up is that I've really been wanting more freedom. I haven't exactly known what I've meant by this, but it's manifested as wanting to say no to more obligations; as putting relaxation and fun on my "to do" lists; as seeking out joy and adventure; and so on. I'm so sorry you've had to accompany me on my writhings through the mud of my longings like this. But stick with me on this particular slog. It might be worth it.

All of those external changes have been excellent. Totally necessary. Eye-opening. I'm glad I've done them, and I'm proud that I have some new, good habits that are about taking care of myself and building the life that I want: Nia, yoga, saying no to projects I don't want to do at work, reading, making time for myself, etc.

But there's been this nagging thing, you see? Where I still don't feel free? Where I still feel obligated, or like my life is not always my own? I've had some ideal days, as you know. Those days usually involve a leisurely waking up and then puttering around the house doing whatever strikes my fancy, staring out the window, the whole follow-your-bliss thing. I love those days. Probably always will.

But most days just aren't like that, and probably won't be for a long time. There's little things like dentist appointments and school registrations and going grocery shopping that just have to be done. There's big things like raising children and having a career and nurturing your marriage that just have to be done.

But I have had a smidgen of resentment about all this because it was keeping me from my freedom, dammit, which I wanted more than anything.

Okay. Maybe more than a smidgen.

So here's the big-time realization that has come to me this week. And yes, it's totally obvious. This is another late-bloomer moment. Prepare to be underwhelmed.

What I wanted freedom my brain.

Yep, my brain. The thing is, there will always be things on the to-do list (whether there is a physical list eventually or not). There will always be acts of service and obligation and whatever. The odd thing is that I don't actually mind doing all of that. In fact, I get tons of joy, happiness, and fulfillment from loving my husband and taking care of my kids and even, sometimes, cleaning the house. I don't even mind cleaning the litter box that much, when it comes down to it. Even grading papers is okay once I get into it (and to any students who are reading this, I don't mean to compare your work to cat poop. Really, I don't).

What I hate, though--what I really can't stand--is the thinking about what I have to do. I hate looking at the list in the morning, or reviewing my calendar, and getting that little pit of anxiety and resistance in my stomach, and all the rapid-fire, nearly sub-conscious self-talk that happens around all of it. That is the real pain in the ass. That is the real prison. And that real prison is me. It's my brain.

So how, exactly, did I figure this entirely obvious, self-evident thing out? Well, we're required in this church class I'm taking to meditate. Not required as in they hold a gun to our heads while we breathe deep, but they certainly ask us to make a commitment to particular spiritual practices, you know, as a means of facilitating our growth, and so I'm trying to show up to that commitment and see what happens.

I've meditated before, sure. In church, and sometimes at home. But I haven't been quite committed to it, primarily because it was time-instensive and anxiety-producing. Or so I used to think. See, I'd sit down to meditate, and get a few seconds of quiet in, and them my naughty monkey brain would go absolutely nuts with all the things I needed to be doing and with the anxiety of what I was not doing and how long the meditation was taking. I'd get up to get some of those things done so that I wouldn't feel so anxious, figuring I'd return to meditation when I was feeling calmer and could do a better job of it. Then I'd never come back to it, of course. Because there were always things to do.


Seriously, though. That's what I thought.

So now that I'm required by this class to do the meditation, and I'm being supported by lots of things to try it, I'm doing 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes at night. Oh, my monkey brain is still in there, throwing all sorts of shit at the bars of my braincage. In fact, I wrote half this post during last night's meditation session, before gently bringing myself back to the breath. I guess the shift is that I'm not giving up or going off to do things when this happens. I'm just shrugging my shoulders at my overactive mind and getting right back into it.

But the amazing thing is that I'm sticking with it and--Lord have mercy--I am experiencing the freedom I've been wanting all along. Freedom, peace. Peace, freedom. It's not about having a clear day to do whatever I want. It's not about dissatisfaction with my job, or the state of my toilets, or how well my children are behaving. It's about quieting my brain for 30 freaking minutes a day. Or at least trying to.

How about that. Now I see why the Buddhster is always laughing.

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