The Final Stretch (i.e. goals, revised)

I’ve been pretty happy with 2015. I think life is meant to get better and happier as time goes on, and it’s a good sign when this happens. It means that you’ve learned from the past and incorporated it into the present. Of course, it’s impossible to be perfect, to be perfectly happy as things are… but in a way, that just makes the future more exciting. So I’ve set a few goals for myself to focus on as I enter senior year, not for the purpose of achieving them fully, but to give me something to strive toward. They center around a quote by one of the most random people on earth, the North Pond Hermit, who lived in solitude for 27 years. When asked about his reflections on the human condition (following arrest for burglary), he stated:

I did examine myself […] Solitude did increase my perception. But here’s the tricky thing – when I applied my increased perception to myself, I lost my identity. With no audience, no one to perform for, I was just there. There was no need to define myself; I became irrelevant. The moon was the minute hand, the seasons the hour hand. I didn’t even have a name. I never felt lonely. To put it romantically: I was completely free.

My goal is certainly not to become a hermit, but to live for myself, independent of performing for others, independent of the need for affirmation. As I’ve gotten distance from my internship, I’ve realized that these past few months have helped me to take a big step in this direction, but I’m still not quite where I want to be. So here is me solidifying my goals:

  1. Be happy, truly happy with what you have. With who you are. No matter what your physical conditions are.
  2. Take care of yourself wholeheartedly. Focus on doing things that you want to do, not things that you feel pressure to do.
  3. Be accepting of the happiness of others. Practice some metta.
  4. Feel as intensely as you can feel. Love as intensely as you can love. Don’t hold back and don’t be afraid to get hurt.
  5. Remember that you are dealing with something that does make your life a little more difficult than the lives of others. Understand what that means, and accept it. Know your limits and respect them. Be grateful.
  6. Don’t be deterred from your ultimate goal. It’s okay if it changes or evolves. Just remember to stride toward it as wholeheartedly as you can.
  7. Take ten minutes for yourself every single day, whatever that means.
  8. Don’t limit yourself or be afraid to take risks. That’s what life is about.
  9. Love love love yourself. Don’t apologize for being you. Work everyday to be the best version of yourself. And don’t look back at those who didn’t care enough to cast you a second glance.
  10. Celebrate failure.

I guess with that, I head into the first day of my senior year of college.

I had a dream about you last night

I miss it when you would hold my hand and take me to the river and sing
when you would make me dumplings when i was sick and mix the sauce perfectly
when you would tell me i was beautiful every day all those years i felt like a hot mess
when you would knock on my door and try to comfort me when i was angry
when i watched a scary movie at night and you let me crawl into bed with you
when you would listen to me play piano and you would sing with me.

I still remember when i would call out to you every time i came home
when you taught me to sing all those japanese songs
when you would spend my competition days praying for me for hours
when you would cut my hair with all the precision that you had
when you would walk with me to dunkin donuts so we could get exactly what i wanted.

I can still hear your footsteps walking around downstairs as i do my homework in my room
and see your beautiful smile the last time i wheeled you outside and we watched the sunset.

I wish i had done a better job of showing you how much i love you,
and i wish you had been here for my birthday this year.

But i know we will meet again. I love you.

Where Am I?

This time last year, I never expected to be here. This time last year I was comfortable, things were good for the first time in a long time. Things were turning around in my family and the fights were stopping, I had a group of friends that I really really genuinely loved being around, and I had someone by my side who taught me what true happiness was. My health was a bit of a shitstorm, as it is every winter, but this was the one time I managed to smile through it. This time last year, I was in the middle of the meditation retreat that inspired me to start this blog and to love myself a little bit more.

But shit happens. Time isn’t meant to stand still.

Here I am now, on the other side of the world, blindly grasping for something, anything that will point me back to the right track. I feel like I’m just floating, wasting away the minutes until I find it, whatever it is.

This year is such a blur to me, it feels like a dream. I don’t think I’ve even processed everything that has happened. I don’t think I can. Makes the future really fucking scary.

I don’t know what i’m doing right now. I honestly don’t have a clue. It’s a scary thing for a planner like me. But I know that this is something that needed to happen. I’ve learned a lot about myself, some good, some bad. But I also know that it’s prepared me better for the future. and its brought my family closer than ever.

I know that I can do it, whatever it is. Doesn’t make living any easier. Sometimes I still want to bury myself under the covers and stay there forever. But it does makes me like myself and appreciate myself just a little bit more. And to be honest, I think that’s the goal I set at the beginning of this trip.

I’m lost right now. Really fucking lost, but I think I’ve got the puzzle pieces in my hand. I just have to put them together.

Would you ever talk to other people the way you talk to yourself?

Hate is a strong word.

Love is different. People use it in every other sentence without a second thought, describing friends, enemies, and foods alike. But hate. There’s a heaviness to the sound of the word. A bitterness that is revealed as soon as its said out loud. It’s something that’s nearly impossible to take back because when you use it, you’ve got to really mean it.

It’s sad that the way it comes up most commonly is in reference to self-hate. To be perfectly honest, I hear it most when I say it to myself. And its just so not okay. Because I hear other people say it to themselves all the time as they describe all their faults. And I look at them and I wish that they could see all the beauty that I see. And I tell them how beautiful they are, but each and every time, I am met with a sense of disbelief. It’s happened to me more times than I can count. It makes me wonder if anyone is truly satisfied with themselves. It makes me think that self-hate is so much more common than self-love when it really should be the other way around.

The title of my blog is discoveringmetta. Lovingkindness. In metta practice, one often starts the meditation with metta toward themselves, and then shifts gradually toward friends, neutral companions, and finally enemies. But sometimes, the hardest person to work with is the self. I feel like working with myself is something I’ve been avoiding this year. And that maybe its time I started facing up to it.

Because I really respect people who love themselves. I don’t see it as arrogance, just a really great attitude. These are the people that are willing to take the fullest advantage of the life that they were given and that’s the kind of person that I want to be. To be quite honest, I’m not really sure where to start.

I do know that I would never talk to other people the way I talk to myself. And that’s just not okay at all. Maybe I’ll start with that.

Showing a little love for humanity

I don’t usually write about politics, but after working my first week on Capitol Hill, there are a few issues that have really gotten to me that I really just have to vent about. Today I attended a briefing on the crisis at the U.S. Mexico Border regarding the increasing numbers of adolescent crossings across the border. Statistically, there have been 47,000 crossings over the past year, a 92% increase since FY2013, originating primarily from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Mexico. I don’t want to alienate people on either side of the political discussion, but I do need to express my thoughts on why and how we can treat this issue with a little more humanity.

I think when an issue such as immigration becomes so overblown by statistics and the media, it ultimately becomes politicized to the point that people become entranced by what they hear from the news and lose perspective on what something such as “mass deportation” means. It has come to the point that kids are defined as a  security threat and no longer acknowledged as human beings. In another life, they could just as easily have been you or me. And the fact is, when they choose to migrate to the U.S., they understand the risks, the likelihood of limb amputation, rape, trafficking, probably never seeing their mom or dad ever again. They choose to risk the journey because its still better than what they currently face. Rates of violence that are 160-180% greater than those of the U.S., possibly getting shot on the way to school. In numerous areas, fear of the police is just as great as fear of the gangs. These children aren’t crossing so they can pursue the “American Dream”, they’re just trying to find a safe place to live.

I understand and acknowledge the argument that there is poverty and violence in the U.S. as well, that we don’t have the money or time to deal with those that aren’t even citizens of this country. But who says we can’t deal with both simultaneously. Why can’t we treat all humans humanely? Is it really fair to say that it is more okay for 42,000 children (and probably more) to live every day in fear simply because they aren’t a citizen of a particular country?

The fact is that deportations and border security cost this country a significant amount. And based on what these children are willing to sacrifice to make it to the U.S., it seems as if these actions wouldn’t really be much of a deterrent to them. Why not consider spending money on a policy that would benefit all citizens? NAFTA and CAFTA had devastating effects on the countries where they were implemented. They actually spurred much of the mass migration because of their economic consequences. Yet, no one seems to addressing these issues. It just seems to me that instead of shutting out suffering children and pretending we don’t see them, we could implement policies and agreements that benefit their home countries so that they don’t have to choose between a higher life expectancy and being able to grow up with their mom and dad.

I don’t think I could endure in a lifetime what these kids go through at such a young age, and it really breaks my heart that they have no choice but to suffer. We’re all human so why can’t we treat each other with a little bit of humanity?

On Meditation (Aka My Healing Process)

I have just returned from retreat at the Cambridge Insight Meditation Center and I have to say it could not have come at a better time. I have been on spring break this past week, but my mind has certainly not been at rest. Since my retreat at IMS, my practice has faltered a bit, but this was a great refresher and has also given me some perspective on my practice since I have had some time to reflect on my experience at IMS, but it was also a much shorter retreat and had a different feel to it. From my experiences, I have compiled a list of some “stuff” that has really been working for me lately.

1. Samadhi (Concentration Meditation)
This is the first type of meditation I was taught. In this meditation, you pick a point of focus, typically the breath or your sitting points (ie your booty), and you keep your mind focused on this point for the duration of your meditation. When (not if) your mind becomes distracted, you simply notice it and return to your point of attention. I began my practice focusing on the tip of my nose because it was simple and I could feel a physical sensation for my inhales and exhales. Another form of this meditation that I have started to turn to is listening meditation, in which you become aware of the sounds around you and choose those as your point of attention. Even something as annoying as a car horn for the screeching of the train on the tracks becomes another point of awareness. Because a lot of my anxiety arises from concerns about my physical health, a lot of these issues arise when I focus on a body part (ie I constantly think I’m having a heart attack). By focusing on an external stimuli, I have been able to remain more focused on my object of attention. I have noticed that through this practice, my attention and concentration in other parts of my life, such as focusing in class or even just holding a conversation, has drastically improved.

2. Vipassana (Insight Meditation)
I have less experience with vipassana, but in the small amount of insight meditation I have done, its benefits have proved to be numerous, as this is the meditation that most yogis strive for (concentration meditation is a stepping stone toward this). It is an opening up of the concentration meditation, where instead of concentrating on a simple point of attention, one becomes open to all experience and sensations, all without judgment. When a moment of anxiety or worry arises, one simply notices and explores the sensations if he or she wishes. The intention of the meditation is not to leave a person devoid of emotion, but simply to allow people to become aware of their bodily states and perceptions so that they cause less suffering for the yogi because he or she has learned how to control them. On the T on the way home today, I started to have some migraine symptoms from having woken up at 7 in the morning and having eaten nothing but soup and bread the entire day. I had been practicing listening meditation because being on the T is a bit of an overwhelming experience. When I noticed that my head started to hurt, I shifted my awareness to the point where the pain began and became aware of the sensation. I then noticed that I was growing anxious because I hate getting migraines and I noticed that my heart was starting to feel tight. Then I realized that these were only sensations and sensations are temporary. My heart began calming down and the tension in my head drew its course and disappeared.

3. Metta (Loving-kindness Meditation)
Although its the title of my blog, I haven’t talked about metta very much. It is essentially a meditation mantra full of love and goodwill that one expresses toward oneself, then moves on to family and friends, neutral individuals, and finally their enemies. These phrases are as simple as “May I be well. May you be happy. May we all be at peace.” The idea is to start with the person it would be easiest to wish these intentions upon, even if it is not yourself, and gradually shift toward people who you may believe don’t even deserve these thoughts. Our instructor today, Michael Grady, said that he used the phrase, “May I be at ease” whenever he was feeling anxious. Its not a bad thing to have in your pocket to use on a bad or even a neutral day and the more you practice it, the more effect it will have. This is something I have not done often and I still have trouble doing (especially with myself), but I continue to strive toward it.

The chant that I originally learned on retreat at IMS can be found here in original Pali (the language of the Buddha) and in English along with a recording of the chant. I just randomly googled this, but it appears this person also first heard the chant at IMS!

May we all be happy and healthy 🙂