Tuesday, April 23, 2013

More Margarita Than Zen: Why Getting Angry Sometimes Is OKAY.

via Pinterest

The other day I had spent several hours dealing with some very difficult people, and made the comment on Twitter: "I meditate.  I do yoga.  I study peaceful teachings.  Sometimes, though, I just need to smack the stupid.  #moremargaritathanzen"

Shortly after, I received a couple of comments and DM's that were pretty much some variation of "Turn the other cheek!", "Suffer fools gladly, for they know not what they do", etc.

Yeah, I subscribe to the philosophy of "Do no harm, but take no shit."  Sometimes, I'm gonna be pissed off about something, and I'm not ashamed of it.  Especially when, in this case, the something I'm ticked off about happened to be too many armchair warriors trying to tell me what REALLY happened here in the Boston area last week, from their safe vantage points in other states and vomiting their little dystopian conspiracy theories at me.  At that point in time, it's like telling the kid being kicked in the playground to "Just ignore the bullies, they'll go away".  Um, no.  I refuse to be bullied and insulted, and no, I don't have to take it.

Yes.  I meditate.  Yes, I practice mindfulness.  Yes, I am planning to teach classes on these two things in the very near future.  Yes, I get angry.  I get downright flaming bullshit.  I can go from zero to bitch in the blink of an eye, and right back again.  I can be also be happy/sad/glad/depressed/livid/ecstatic/blah/scared and any other emotion you care to name.  Know what?  This is okay.  Why?

Here's the deal.  Anger is not a bad thing.

Anger is only one of the many emotions that make us human.  In and of itself, it is neither good nor bad*.  It just is.  Fire, for example, is not bad in and of itself.  Used properly, it keeps us warm and dry.  Out of control?  It consumes and burns everything it touches. Like with anything, the problems come in how we treat it.

When it controls us or we use it to hurt others?  Then it is bad.  When it is a constant fixture in our lives, and we're only ever angry?  Then it is bad.  When we ignore it and pretend it doesn't exist, or use it as a weapon to beat ourselves up with because "you're not supposed to be angry ever", then it is bad.

Seriously, we need to get over this whole "Negativity/Positivity" bullshit, because we've got this warped idea that "Things What Make Us Happy Are Positive And Therefore Good" and "Things What We Don't Like Are Negative And Therefore Bad".  It's so incredibly damaging, because we aren't perfect, and spend so much time beating ourselves and each other up over little things because we have decided they are Bad and therefore WE are Bad because we're not perfect.  I'll be honest, that shit annoys me endlessly. What is important is how we relate and react to things.

Anger, when controlled, can drive us to do great things.  Anger transformed into determination can help us climb mountains, run marathons, leave dead end jobs that destroy our spirits and build a life that make us happy. The little angers, annoyance and frustration, can be signs from ourselves that we need to take a moment and step away to regroup; Are we too tired?  Are we hungry?  Are we being pulled in too many directions?  Are we doing something that is not right for us?  Are we just cranky and need to remove ourselves from a situation and breathe for moment.

I do not allow my anger to rule me.  I get angry, I acknowledge the anger, I determine if it is an anger I can use to fuel something good, if there's something underlying going on, or if it's an anger that I just need to let run it's course and move on.  Then I take steps to deal with that anger in the appropriately constructive manner.  Sometimes that manner is to make a snippy comment in a safe place or write a post about dealing with anger and why it's okay to get mad sometimes.

First thing's first, though. In order to identify the source, one must first stop and breathe.  (Are we noticing a trend with this breathing thing?)

The next time you find yourself getting angry, take a moment to pause and take 3 deep breaths.  This actually acts as a kind of mental reset button, and will allow you a critical moment to assess.  The great thing about this is that the more you practice focusing on your breathing, the more you train your body's mental pathways to respond with the desired result:  in this case, a calmer frame of mind.

Once you have paused, you can determine why you are angry and what you can do about it.  From there, you can determine next steps.

Even if the next step is to realize you're not fit for human consumption that day, and hide in a cave until you can be civilized. If you do?  That's okay.  (If you can't hide in the Blanket Fort Of Solitude due to things like work or whatnot, even just taking a 5 minute walk can do wonders for your temper.)

I know, so simple, yet so bloody hard when you just want to smack someone with a bag of hammers.  ;)

The important thing to remember is that getting angry?  It's okay.  You're not a terrible human who will never achieve enlightenment or whatever it is you're aiming for because you had a bad day or you've got a low blood sugar and need to go have a snack.  What you'll be is 100% Human, and humans have lots of emotions.  It's something we're exceptionally good at.  As a matter of fact, by not beating yourself up for getting mad, you'll already be ahead of the curve.

Just remember, if you do slip and it gets out of your control and you burn someone else with it, apologize and use the subsequent embarrassment to fuel your determination to do better next time.

To the folks who tell others it's not okay to be angry?  Seriously?  Do you have ANY idea how condescending and irritating that is?  Please, don't invalidate and belittle other people's feelings and emotions by telling them it's wrong to have them.  It's a passive-aggressive form of bullying.  Just... don't.  Okay?

So there.  Some days you are all Zen and chill, and some days you just need to know when it's time to give up and have a margarita.  Both of these are perfectly acceptable, in moderation.


Now, where did I leave that margarita?

*Obligatory CYA Disclaimer:  Obviously, it should go without saying that there can be medical conditions or psychological issues that need to be addressed by a trained health professional, of a variety that I am not.  If this is the case, please seek out professional assistance.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Why On Earth Am I Reading This? Social Media, Self-Care, and You

(found via Pinterest)

Social media is the bane of self-care.  Oh, sure, when it works right and it's powers are used for good, it is one of the most amazing things ever.  The sheer number of actual lives that it has saved are incalculable. Sadly, by the same token, the number of lives damaged by it are also astronomically high.  In the middle, though, it is simultaneously a source of general amusement and low-level aggravation and stress.

For me, this past week, it has been both a touchstone of sanity as my world spun out of control, and as the single largest source of rage (and given that the madness of the terrorist suspect capture in Watertown, Ma. on Friday is precisely 4.4 MILES from my doorstep, and I spent my day under lockdown in my house that should speak VOLUMES).  Why?  At the same time that Facebook and Twitter were being used locally to communicate with each other and speak reassurance that we were okay and to check on loved ones in the area, other groups of people were using it to try and score political points; armchair warriors safely far away were spouting off tinfoil hat theories and how DARE the Government lock us in our homes and how our Constitutional Rights Were Being Violated (point of order, we weren't being forced to stay inside, it was strongly recommended and we said "Sure!  Go Get 'Em!  We'll sit here drinking and watch it on tv!" and voluntarily stayed put); bigots were using it to spout anti-whoever rhetoric, and some charming assholes were even posting photos of corpses and people injured during Monday's attack.


*takes a deep breath*

Case in point.  Just thinking about it makes my blood pressure spike.  I've been doing breathing meditation exercises for days just to maintain a semblance of calm.  I'm also dealing with post-stress issues, which makes me a little crankier than usual.

The thing is, this is all avoidable.  It takes work, though, and conscious effort on both sides.

The people that post things like that need to realize that their stuff isn't just going off into the void and having no impact (or not the impact they were going for).  They need to realize that more often than not, the people they are hurting are their friends and family, and that they need to have some respect and compassion for those others.

The rest need to learn how to walk away.  If social media is making you angry, close the browser.  If you have a friend or relative who will not grasp that the stuff they are posting is hurting you (or doesn't care that they are), you need to gently and with love walk away.  Remove them from your social media streams.  If they have issue with it, you need to understand that the issue is theirs, and not yours.

As a screaming quintuple Scorpio, I have a driving Need To Know All The Things Ever All The Time.  I can't help myself.  I just do.  I love new information and new things.  I love that I can go onto Twitter and talk to people hundreds of thousands of miles away, in real time.  I love that I can connect with a man in outer space who shares photos of our little blue marble from orbit, and that on Monday he made me cry by taking a photo of Boston and expressing his sorrow for us.  Not being plugged into that all the time is HAAARD for me.  It is, however, necessary.

It's necessary to take time for myself.  To breathe.  To meditate. To go for walks in the sunshine.  To go out and interact with the people near me, not just those far away at the end of an electrical current.  It's necessary, when I'm seeing too much horror and darkness, to detach and cuddle my giant adoring tabby, or hug The Boy.  It's necessary for my sanity and for my physical health.

Just for today, disconnect from social media, and hug someone you love.  It's one of the most important things you can do.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

In Times Of Darkness, Become The Light

This was not the way I wanted to restart this blog, but things don't always turn out the way we plan them.

I live 10 miles from Boston's Boylston Street, where the bombing happened yesterday.  One of my dearest friends was just feet from it.  Another friend works a block away.  A friend's brother is Boston EMS.  Needless to say, Monday was a Bad Day of epic proportions.

Monday was a day that started in bright light and happiness.  It ended in darkness, despair, and confusion. It's hard, in times like this, to remember that the world is not a terrible place, and that all is not violence and doom.

It isn't, though, and when darkness comes and the world seems cold and bleak, this is when we must become the light and warmth for one another.  These are the times that we must pull together not as political parties, religious groups, what have you, but as human beings.  These are the times, more than any other, when we need to shine as bright as we can, to push back against the darkness, and becomes beacons of light and hope for each other.

How did Boston and the surrounding towns handle being bombed?

*When the explosions first happened, before anyone knew what was going on, people ran toward the blasts to help the people caught by them.

*Several runners continued past the finish line, after having run 26 miles, to run 2 more to the hospitals to donate blood

*When the surrounding hotels were evacuated and shut down, someone created a Google doc and over 5,000 local residents listed their contact information to offer places to sleep, eat, shower, charge phones, offer internet and whatever other help they could give.

*When the cell phone signals became too much for the cell towers to handle, those of us on social media were re-tweeting, re-sharing, and passing on information to help people locate each other and let people know their loved ones were safe.

*The day after, the Museum of Fine Arts and several other local museums opened their doors for free to offer a place of solace and comfort.  A local movie theater showed movies for free, to help take people's minds off the horror so they could recover and start to cope.

*The New York Yankees set aside a long-standing sports rivalry that is notorious for fights and name-calling, and stood by us.  The sounds of our song were heard in Yankee Stadium, and both over the PA system and from the throats of the people in the crowd singing along.

This is how we should do things.  We pull together, we help all those who need it.  We push back against those who would seek to harm us and we say "No. You will NOT drag us into the dark.  Every time you try, we will only shine brighter than we ever have before."

In the wake of this horror, so terrifyingly close to home, I have never been more proud of Humanity's willingness to help those in need.  I hope that if nothing else, we carry this lesson on with us, that we ARE all in this together and in that togetherness we are stronger and better for it.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Zen Rule #6: Help others. You Could Be Next in Line.

I've often mentioned that I'm not allowed to read the news before I've had my morning coffee or while I'm sober.  There is good reason for this.  Most of it these days either breaks my heart or makes me want to do Very Bad Things (tm) to people.  

The one that kills me the most, though, is the way that the poor and the unemployed are being treated these days.  The way that people are actually so far gone into their own little, selfish, sociopathic mindsets that they are willing to cheer someone's death, simply because they are poor.  (There is video circulating the Internets from the Republican debate where this happened.  I'm not going to link it, it makes me too sick to even look up.)  The way that the unemployed are reviled and called all manner of heinous things for simply being unlucky in the second worst economic disaster this country has seen.  I don't dare let myself read the comments, where the worst of the venom and delusions are:

* "Anybody living in the USA is not poor.  My wife use to work at a grocery check-out.  The people on welfare had cell-phones, cable, color tvs and nice apartments, plus free food.  And alot of them were overweight...Don't tell me we have poor people in the USA. Anybody that does should be ashamed of themselves."  (Delusional, much, darling?  I've cashiered at grocery stores, too, and yeah, we'd get the occasional Welfare Mom I'd Want To Smack, but for the most part,, no.  Additionally, I  personally know people who are truly poor, and no, they don't have cell phones, fancy cars, nice apartments, free food, tv's at all, let alone color ones.)

* "Most of the people living under bridges or trailers are mentally ill and have chosen to live that lifestyle. Most of them are either living on SS payments or pan handling because they don't want to work."  (Um, what?  I can't decide where to start picking that one apart, except that I want to bite the moron that wrote that.  Guess I should be glad they at least managed to spell correctly?)

*  "Poor people are only poor because they made bad choices."  (*insert sound of incoherent frothing* 'cause yeah, people choose to be sick, injured, have their bosses lay them off because their salary is interfering with the Board members vacation plans...)

The list goes on ad nauseum.

I just don't even...

Poor people are poor for many reasons.  Yes, some of them  brought it on themselves and some of them abuse the system.  Most, however, are victims of simple bad luck.  They were born into poverty and never had the help or tools necessary to get themselves out of it.  They/their spouse/their kid got sick.  They got hurt.  The economy tanked and they haven't been able to catch a break and recover.  No matter how hard they try, or what they do, they just can't get caught up or just far enough ahead to make escape velocity.

Trust me when I say, they do NOT want to be there.  It kills their self-esteem, strains relationships, damages their health.  They would do just about anything to get to get back on their feet again and not need help.

However, someone needs to hold out their hand to help them up.  

I hear too many supposedly "Christian" people screaming that the poor are just lazy bastards looking for a handout and they should get off their asses and get a job.  I see too many articles proclaiming that "Socialism R BAAAAD" and the Corporations are wonderful and honest and we should totally bow to their every whim.

Then I remember my days at Lady Isle Catholic school, and I remember Sister Rose reading us the story of the Good Samaritan, and the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus fed the masses who had gathered, and I remember another story, where he goes to the Temple and finds the money-lenders have turned it into an auction house and he completely loses his shit, starts screaming and yelling and runs them out for being horrific, self-centered bastards.

Pretty sure that he made it rather crystal clear where his sympathies lay, and I don't think it was with the rich folks taking advantage of the poor.  Matter of fact, he seems to have had something of a track record for helping get medical help to those who were sick, feed those who had no food, and generally saying that others should do the same.

I'm pretty sure every major belief system has some variation on the idea that it is the duty of those who have to help those who have not.

Last I checked, the word "Society" and "Social" have the same root meaning.  One cannot have a civilized society in which the people consider themselves to be inviolate and above helping others.  It is our duty, as human beings, to help those less fortunate than ourselves when we can.

After all, who is to say when it will be our turn to need a helping hand?

Blessed Mother Teresa, one of the biggest influences in my life.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Belief is a Powerful Thing

AvalokiteĊ›vara, Bodhisattva of Compassion 

I refuse to believe that the world is a dark, scary, and violent place.

I refuse to believe that anyone different from me is automatically a potential threat.

I refuse to believe that someone being harassed for taking too many trips to the bathroom on an airplane somehow makes me safer.

I refuse to believe that I should condone this behavior.

I refuse to believe that everyone from a different ethnic group, religion, economic tier, is "out to get me" or "destroy my way of life", though I do question the motivations of the people who try and convince me of this.

I refuse to believe in a culture of squalor and deprivation.

I refuse to believe in a society that believes that it's "Every man for himself".

I refuse to believe that people should be punished, ignored, mistreated, or otherwise denigrated for bad luck or poor choices.

Instead,  I choose to believe the following~
That there is enough for everyone, and that those with more than enough have the moral obligation to help those who are struggling.  You never know when Life will throw you a curve ball, and that it will be you that is in need of help. 

I believe in "Paying it forward".  

I believe that, while there are some bad people, for the most part humans default to good.  I also believe that sometimes they need to be reminded of this.  

I believe that diversity is a beautiful thing:  the garden wouldn't be anywhere near as lovely if it only contained one kind of flower.  

I believe that sometimes, everyone gets lost in the darkness, and that it is our responsibility as humans to help them find the light again.  

I believe that we should assume trust-worthiness and honor until proven otherwise.  We may be wrong sometimes, but I would rather that I put my faith in the wrong place, than never have given it at all.  

I believe that sometimes, the difference between life and death can be as simple as a smile or a kind word, and therefore we should never hesitate to smile and compliment people, even strangers.  

I believe that everything happens for a reason, even if we have to invent that reason.

I believe that if we trust that the world is good and act accordingly than, more often than not, it will be.

* * * * * *

I also believe that I really should not read the news while sober.  It depresses the hell out of me some days.

Embrace Diversity. Uniformity is Boring.

via Pinterest

Monday, September 12, 2011

Life in Still Frame

"Midnight.  A rest area somewhere along an unknown highway.  In the foreground, a pair of dancing shoes rests on the top of the pile of a trash bin, broken straps illuminated by the sodium-orange lights.  Beyond, slightly blurred and palely lit by the moonlight, a woman in a gauzy party dress; striped knee socks slouched comfortably above the tops of well-worn hiking boots, delicate handkerchief hem fluttering in the breeze as she walks away into the night..."

Where had she been, that she was all dressed up so late at night and in the middle of nowhere?  Was she leaving something behind?  Where was she going to?  What was her story?

These are the things that haunt my brain late at night.  These are the snapshots and images that make up my life.  These are the important questions...  Where are we?  Where are we coming from?  Where are we going?  What is our story?

If you were to have one photograph that told your life story, what would it be?