Sundays

I wake up on Sundays with my heart racing, a pit in my stomach.

It’s a habit now.

Another week is coming, but what have I accomplished this week? What have I accomplished this weekend? The obsessions never stop.

Things have settled down now. I know I’m on the upswing, but cycles of anxiety grasp at every thought. The meaningless worries, which used to sit in the back of my mind, seem to have nestled in and made their home. No amount of mental power will make them budge.

I’m trying to take things one step at a time. To appreciate the glimpses of light in every day, but I can’t help but dwell on the negatives. My brain seems to wander in search of the tiniest anxieties I’ve been running around to avoid. Last week, I couldn’t breathe. I thought my asthma had finally heard about LA smog. But it was just anxiety. I guess my subconscious knows, because the nightmares haven’t stopped in weeks. Swarming me every night and with every nap. Ironic since sleeping is how I used to avoid the world.

I’ll be patient.

I’ve gotten to the point where the me I’m trying to hide doesn’t slip out as often. I walk around with smiles, suspiciously positive retorts to the day old “how are you?” Things are seemingly back to normal. And I haven’t cut in a month. But every second of every day still feels like a war. To not get sucked in again, and to forgive myself when I do.

Sundays though. Sundays I aim for survival. Sundays I don’t make plans because I don’t know if I can live up to them, but when the day comes, the loneliness settles in. I walk around with a tightness in my chest, an urge to throw everything up. Sundays I despise, but secretly wish would continue forever.

Today, I’m remembering to breathe, be patient, and practice a little bit of metta.

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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.

Blogaversary!

Whoops I missed my blogaversary but I wrote my first blog post January 6th,2013 and I have officially made it full circle! I honestly thought this effort would have been abandoned long ago, but in the past year I’ve written 55 blog posts and gotten more than 2,000 views! I know its actually not a lot compared to the serious blogs out there, but I’m proud of myself for following through. This blog is more for myself than anything and it has been a great release for me over the past year especially during times when I really thought I wasn’t going to make it. This also marks a full year of my taking cold showers (because eczema).

Making Peace

I’m a person who likes to do what I want to do. And I’m a person who will fight to do what I want to do… because I don’t like to be told no. A lot of times its a good thing, but sometimes it means that I don’t know my limits. And I do have limits.

I’m lying in bed right now. Where I’ve been for the past two days. I’m supposed to be exploring Tokyo right now. Taking advantage of my $465 rail pass, but I literally can’t move. Over the past month, my eczema has deteriorated so much that after a ten minute walk, I can barely stand up straight. Somehow I got it in my head that if I could just push through the pain, everything would be okay. But bodies don’t work like that, and that’s a lesson that I’m learning.

After a very expensive trip to the hospital yesterday and almost not making it to Tokyo, I realized that I needed to stop and listen to what my body is telling me. Partly because taking two steps feels like I’m setting my legs on fire. Well actually its completely because of that. I don’t think I would have stopped otherwise. So as I’m writing this, I haven’t completely made peace with myself, but I’m working on it. Because not being able to walk sucks. It really fucking sucks. It’s not the worst thing in the world, but it makes life in Japan incredibly difficult and frustrating. And it’s really hard not to hate my own body for rebelling against me.

But seeing as I have no choice but to lie here and spend time with myself, its all the more important to make peace with what I have. So yup, that’s what’s happening right now.

Maybe its time to do some metta practice. That and ironically writing my research paper on healing in Buddhism.

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.

10 Steps for Fighting Harmful Behaviors and Getting Over Addiction

It was such a simple move, but simply acknowledging my addiction has changed my personal outlook quite dramatically. It has helped me understand why I do some of the things I do and how to consciously make a decision to stop reverting to all these things that end up harming me in the end. Nevertheless, I am a plan it out kind of gal, and I feel like writing down a plan will make me more accountable to myself. So here are my 10 steps for fighting harmful behaviors and getting over addiction:

 

1. Pinpoint actions and behaviors that you turn to when you stressed, depressed, or in a generally negative state of mind.

2. Answer these questions: Does this make me feel better in the short term? Does it have harmful long-term consequences? Am I becoming dependent on this? Do I know how to cope with my stress without this? And finally, am I addicted?

3. Acknowledge the addiction and make a conscious decision to get over it.

4. Make a list of reasons why it is harmful. How is it affecting your life in a negative way? Reinforce your reasons for quitting so that when you start to relapse, you remember why you committed in the first place. Write these reasons down and keep them accessible.

5. Make a list of your triggers so you are aware of when you are most vulnerable and when it is most important to steer clear of your addiction.

6. Find a hobby, or a make list of activities to fill your time with instead. Personally, I am trying to start meditating more regularly. I’ve also been practicing piano much more, as creating music is something that builds my confidence and allows me to be comfortable with myself. Going for a walk or listening to music are also great activities. Something my therapist suggested, but I’ve only tried once is listening to an audiotape to keep thoughts from going astray.

7. Reward yourself! (Albeit not by giving in to your addiction) Treat yourself to a meal at your favorite restaurant or buy yourself something nice. Set personal goals for your addiction, be it number of days, weeks or months, and when you fulfill these goals, give yourself a little something.

8. Get in touch with your feelings. A large part of meditation is understanding your emotions and mental states. When you are sad, acknowledge your sadness and try to understand what it is that is making you feel this way. By becoming more aware of what is going on within you, these emotions have less control over your actions.

9. If you have a relapse, don’t give up. Acknowledge that relapse is natural and happens to the best of us. It is not a setback. It is simply a reminder of how difficult recovery is and how strong you are for having come this far. Keep chugging forward.

10. Celebrate yourself. Acknowledge the little victories. Did you get out of bed today? Did you smile at least once? Did you make someone else smile? Did you check off something on your neverending list of tasks? Did you fight off an urge? Did you remember to celebrate yourself?

Metta.

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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 🙂