The Web of Inner-connectedness: Posture and Self-image
- Shoulders: I learned this technique in physical therapy after shoulder surgery. I ripped a tendon from my shoulder joint and had to have it stapled back. The healing process was slow and in PT I learned that posture was important to shoulder strength. When we hunch, our shoulders form a U-shape across our chest. This stresses some of the small muscles that keep your shoulder blades in place, while weakening the large muscles that keep them strong.
- Lift your shoulders straight up, then push them straight back, and then drop them. This is an exaggerated adjustment, but holding your shoulders like this as often as you can throughout the day will adjust your posture over time.
- Core: Vaccuming mixed with Kegels will strengthen all the small muscles in your core. These are muscles often neglected, but vitally important for good health in so many ways. This is what I call “vacuuming your pelvic floor”.
- Suck your belly button straight back towards your spine, from there, lift it straight up as far as you can. Then, imagine you are in a job interview for your dream job and you suddenly have to use the restroom… for two reasons… hold it in… hold it in strongly… no pooping or peeing your pants in this interview!
- Hip Flexor: Kegels will help you do this automatically to a degree, but tilt your hips back. Your hip flexor is a tendon that stretches from the tops of your hips to your quads. Weak hip flexors can ruin your entire back. Keep this tendon stretched and healthy!
- This is difficult to explain in words, but imagine you are dancing to your favorite ’70s disco song and your best move is the pelvic thrust… just freeze at the peak of your thrust.
If you’re doing this right now, I bet you feel foolish. It’s weird to think that this is actually how we’re supposed to stand. Keep doing it! Try walking. From time to time, I challenge myself by counting my steps while doing all three of these. At first it was 25 steps, then 50 and so on, but I can average 300 steps now quite easily.
Doing these three things have helped me on my journey toward positive self-image. I should note that this is not the only thing I do to that end, but it certainly is an important one, especially since I work out, also something I do that helps my self-image. As my self-image has been improving, my physical health has been improving as well and things I do like focus on posture with intent become exponentially easier. I naturally carry myself straight and confidently. So many other areas of my life have benefited as well (I’ve even grown half an inch!).
It has not been easy though since I’ve hunched in on myself for most of my life. On days when my depression needs to express itself, I find myself hunching in. I try to remember proper posture as often as I can, and (along with pen therapy) this helps me manage symptoms of my depression rater well!
Now, take that pen out of your mouth and have a beautiful day!!
Feeling is different from Being
There is a vast chasm of difference between the two. I am not sure why I’m up this late writing about this, but I feel this overwhelming sense of gratitude right now and so I think I just wanted to capture that.
And to tell a story… about gratitude…
Psychology Today defines gratitude as “an emotion expressing appreciation for what one has…”
I say they have no clue what it really is.
Google says gratitude is “the quality of being thankful…” which is a little closer to the truth.
Now, let me tell my story and you’ll understand the difference.
I’ve been a long time member of a certain twelve step program. I’m intentionally being aloof because I don’t want anyone to think I represent any existing twelve step program. I would not even divulge this much information if it weren’t absolutely important to the story. Truth is, I haven’t been to a meeting in a long time, but that’s not required for membership, so it doesn’t matter (maybe it does to some, but not to everyone… not to me).
One day, well over a decade ago, I was in a meeting. I was chairing the meeting (or if your not familiar with twelve step vernacular, I was leading the meeting). At the time, because I was so “enlightened” and on top of my world, I had a personal rule when I chaired that if no one had a specific thing they needed/wanted to talk about, the topic of discussion would always be gratitude. It seemed reasonable, because gratitude is what kept us all not only sober, but happy. It gave us real perspective of our whiny, selfish, self-centered little worlds.
On this particular day, no one wanted to chair. So, I stepped up. When it came time to come up with a topic, no one wanted to speak up. So, I stepped up. Gratitude! God Dammit!
Of course, you can’t talk about such a happy thing without hearing really good, inspirational stuff. This is almost always true. Of course there were the people who would being with, “I just don’t feel very grateful, and I know it’s wrong… that I have a lot to be grateful for, but I’m just so worried about [which new car I should choose/paying bills/DTs/the incessant need smoke meth/etc.].” But they would always come around and find things to be grateful for and thank me for the topic.
But Steve was in the meeting that day. Steve was a man some of us called “Eeyore” behind his back. We didn’t mean it mockingly. We meant it because we worried about him. Steve was always so sad. So very sad. Sadness permeated him, etched through him, leaving him visibly full of holes like a natural sponge. Whenever Steve was going to speak — and he always spoke — my heart would ache for him. I never felt pity for him, but I always wanted him to know that I cared about him, about his life. I wanted to see him hold happiness. He was so soft, and gentle and free with compliments and well-wishes for absolutely every soul he encountered. It was so difficult to see him not have that same compassion and empathy for himself.
We loved him like we loved Eeyore.
When it came time for Steve to talk, I could tell he was dreading opening his mouth. I half expected him to pass, but Steve rarely passed. And though I don’t remember word for word what he said, and it may be piecemeal from several meetings the gist I present below is accurate enough to be quoted dialogue from that meeting.
“I miss my wife. I loved her more than anything. But one day, I woke up from a black out next to her under the bridge we lived under in Portland. She was dead. I don’t know how long we had been laying there or when she died, but she was dead. I hate alcohol. And I’m really scared of it too. I don’t ever want to drink again, but the guilt I feel is too much to live with and alcohol is the only escape I know.
“So, I don’t feel grateful. Maybe sometimes. I feel grateful for my lemon tree. I take good care of it and it gives me lemons. Sometimes I feel grateful for that. But what’s more important than feeling grateful is that I AM grateful. There’s a difference.”
I don’t feel grateful, but I AM grateful.
The concept struck me right between the eyes with lead brick. I could have had no better teacher in all the Universes in this particular subject. Here I thought I was so wise and emotionally enlightened and I had not yet learned this simple idea.
I think it was in his book, Way of the Peaceful Warrior, that Dan Millman said that “emotions are the weather patterns of the body.” We often take this idea for granted. I say “we” because you know you do this too. We say something like “I am grateful for my life today,” when what we really mean is that we feel gratitude for these things. Which is fine, but emotions are fleeting. They blow through and are gone.
How audacious of us to relegate something so important to something so fleeting!
What we really want from gratitude is for it to last. No be fleeting. As an emotion I feel, I can easily take it for granted. I am acquainted with it, rather than intimate with it. And maybe a part of me wants to argue that this is just semantic nonsense, but it’s not.
Think about the power in the words we use. When I say, “I am grateful for the life I have,” I turn gratitude into a adjective. An adjective that is describing me. Thus, gratitude becomes a part of my identity. It is no longer something that I simply feel, but something I must be. Which implies that I have work to do. Something a bit more than sitting around waiting for happy things to plop down into my lap.
On my worst days, when depression sharpens its teeth to gnaw at my grey matter, I remember Steve. He won’t let me forget him. And let me tell you, from the depths of my existence, as a responsible expression of the Universe in an infinite reality, I am truly grateful for Steve.
Steve did not survive this world. He desperately wanted to be with his wife again. So he went home to her one day. He made absolute sure to leave instructions behind on who would inherit his lemon tree. And though I don’t know for sure, I believe with all my heart that it is still alive today, being tended to by someone Steve taught how to be grateful.
Thank you, Steve, for putting me in my place and not teaching me only about gratitude, but about humility. Another thing one must be more than one must feel.
Dummy. That was my nickname when I was a boy (around ages 7 to 12). It was given to me by my step-dad: a Vietnam-vet and ex-POW, a raging alcoholic, a failed hermit and an abuser. At that age, the nickname bored into me and told me something I grew up believing was true, despite evidence to the contrary.
As a young man, I devoted my life to hiding from what I thought was a deep truth: that I was stupid. I developed behaviors surrounding this deep dark secret of mine. The most prominent is the rage I would feel if I thought someone was questioning my intellectual capacity. The most ingrained was the inability to allow people to get close. I kept the world at a distance, because I didn’t want to be dumb, but believed I was and no one could find that out.
In high school, I began meditation and focusing on growing and repairing the damaged parts of myself. The latter I’ve carried with me my whole life. The former, I struggle with off and on in life (I feel like I’m not alone there, however). As a result of both, I’ve developed a habit of paying attention to my intent in most every situation. It helps me keep focus within rather than pointing my finger at the world. As a result, I improve. I am a better version of myself each day.
Looking back on myself as a young man and my reactions to people who appeared to me to be questioning my intellect, I see a major difference. Before, even if in jest, I would react to people by fully withdrawing, obsessing for days without sleep. That person, even if for a short time, became my enemy. Today, I have one of those jesty-centered friendships with a guy I’ve known for several years. You know those types of relationships: it’s all about who can get the best rib-shot in. We have serious moments, but most of the time we spend together is criticizing each other’s (real or imagined) flaws… and laughing about it. He pokes at my intellectual capacity more than anyone ever has in my life. After knowing him for five years, I only just made this realization only yesterday: that his joking critique didn’t bother me in the slightest. In fact, somewhere along the line, somehow — without noticing that it actually happened — I became confident in my abilities to understand, to learn… to be smart.
As I sit here now, I know I am intelligent and it has nothing to do with my intellectual successes in my life. I dropped out of high school, thinking I was incapable of rising to anything higher than beating video games. But I passed my GED exams in the 97th percentile, and a year before my class graduated. I taught myself how to program web pages, graduated college summa cum laude, and so on. None of those successes had anything to do with my intellectual capacity, and had everything to do with how I feel about myself.
Striving to be authentic, looking within for the answers to our biggest questions and learning to not judge (ourselves and the world around us) are the keys to personal growth. I feel like I want to say that patience is a factor, because it takes time to reprogram yourself, but I cannot because I don’t know when this change happened. I don’t remember the last time I felt horrible because someone seemed to imply I might be a little stupid.
Now, I can laugh when someone pokes fun at me in that way (if the joke is funny, that is — if it isn’t, then I get to poke back).
Knowing my place
The Dalai Lama’s Facebook post for today sparked some thought I take for granted, so I thought I’d flesh it out for #myDailyShare (not that I will improve upon what has already been said).
We are all the same.
I’ve spent a lifetime “learning my place” in the world. The world I have lived in has classified my as this or that, has taught me who my betters are (basically, everyone), and given me all the tools I need to compare my insides to the outsides of those I encounter. Because of this, I learned also to internalize and protect myself, allowing only acceptable parts of myself to show… depending on who I was around. This can become very complicated, but what is important is that this belief of separation has created within me an automatic “othering” process that keeps the distance between me and others exactly as it should be. My distance from you is directly proportional to how much better than me I think you are — and of course, how much better I think I am than you.
The problem with this — and it’s a major problem in our culture — is that there are vast distances between everyone. It’s rare to find one person in a lifetime that can bridge that gap. And I am responsible for my part in building that bridge.
But the truth is, the gap is illusory. Beyond my perceptions of other people, they are just like me.
Celebrities are our royalty. We listen to them. We believe them and trust them. If we meet them we behave erratically. But they are no different than those of us who are not famous. Beneath the external qualities that surround who I think I am and who I think others are, there is a very simple concept: We only want happiness.
We might not know what happiness is, but we know we want it. The drive to have it is what fuels us to get up in the morning. It comes in so very many different forms — sometimes helpful, sometimes harmful; it permeates every experience we encounter throughout the day.
We guard our right to it with the ferocity of fight-or-flight reactions in the shape of our middle finger when someone cuts us off in traffic. That dude wants happiness too. Maybe his happiness is threatened by being late for work. Maybe that’s why you flipped the sonofabitch off in the first place.
When we have it, we want to share it. We freely give it in the form of kind apologies delivered with a smile when our grocery carts are in the way of another’s in the bread aisle.
This is what drives us. This is why there is no actual distance between me and you. Our beliefs, values, talents, weaknesses… these are incidental. They might shape how I am delivered to the the world, but they are not who I am. Who I am, is the exact same as who you are… who anyone is. We can’t get to who we are completely, but in trying, we come to see that those distances that keep us apart from each other are nothing more than fictions we create within ourselves so that we know our place within our society.
Those distances are a poison in our culture. The antidote? Compassion (the guy who cut you off wants the same thing you do).
So… What now?
I have been “struggling” with uncertainty lately (part of the reason I’ve been slacking on posting daily shares). The semester is over and a lot of my friends are graduating and moving on with the next phase of their lives. While it’s sad to say goodbye, there is another feeling that is arising for me: what am I doing?
This happens to me when I pause at way stations on my life’s journey. I graduated last December and, while I like the metaphor of a new chapter in life, it felt (and feels) more appropriately to be the end of a book in a series. Some days I feel as if I am the author. Other days, I am only the main character. Some days, my book is non-fiction and my character is real and full of life. Other days, I am a puppet wondering where my direction and motivation are going to come from.
The truth is, I am riding an eddy of uncertainty. As we know, uncertainty is a beautiful thing. What I have in front of me are possibilities. When I’m happiest, uncertainty and possibility are synonyms and my creativity runs blissfully rampant in life.
But then there are those times when the two appear to be antonyms, when possibility is hidden behind the question: “What now?”. These are the days when I feel like I am going through the motions. Ego questions all the things that appear to be lacking in my life. My focus rests on what I don’t have, which is another way of describing all the things I desire.
My life right now is exactly where it needs to be. I have considered options for the future, but none of them feel right. I am beginning a new book in the series of my life, but I am stuck trying to determine what should go in the prologue. Writer’s block, if you will.
Sometimes, it’s important to let those outside forces guide me. I want to allow the Universe to provide me with the options (or, as I like to think of them, miracles and possibilities) I have not even considered. I don’t want to lock myself into a choice that will hinder me. This is called fear.
My life — the entire series so far — has taught me that fear is a very useful tool. It is a difficult one to use properly, but when it arises, it is clear. From that point, I can choose to allow the fear to make my decisions or I can start probing it. Fear really is nothing more than the packaging material for uncertainty-as-possibility. If life is a lush garden, fear is the odor of the compost. It is the manifestation of uncertainty-as-anti-possibility. One of those two dynamics function properly; the other, of course, does not function. It is clear which one does and which one doesn’t. Functional dynamics allow a system to continue expressing motive energy if in an altered state while dysfunctional dynamics grind the whole process to a halt.
Clearly, for my life to move forward from this point — to write the prologue for my next book — I need to embrace the uncertainty. I need to dwell within the space of “What now?”. To keep moving, I need to pause and be present in the stillness of this moment in my life. There is no fear, no worry here. That all exists in the nonexistent future.
Do you want to change the world too?
I have many dreams. There are so many things I want to do in life. Sometimes, that list seems quite daunting and impossible as a whole. Sometimes, some of the things on that list are daunting by themselves. Some of them are simple curiosities I wish to one day experience; some are ways I may contribute to the happiness of all. I am a dreamer. This is true. I’ve let my culture tell me in my life that this is bad. That dreaming of life is not life. That practical action is required and that I should leave my dreaming in childhood so that I may better pay my taxes and my bills. The old punk-rocker in me has always said, “Fuck you!” to these social standards imposed on me, but the spiritual being within has helped to unveil a different perspective. Actually, they’re not all that different…
One thing I absolutely do not want is to reach the end of my life and wonder what it was all for. In fact, that thought has come to be a powerful indicator to my state of being in a moment. When I start thinking, “What’s the point?”, I know that my will is out of alignment with my life. I know that I am not doing what I should be. I know this because when I’m doing the things I need to be doing, I am happy and content and everywhere I place my gaze, there is living, vibrant beauty.
So, my dream is to change the world by writing. Sounds simple enough, yeah? The complexity of that statement is not apparent in the statement, but it means having experience enough to gain wisdom, which means taking action to experience new things, which means letting go of insecurities enough to put myself out there, which means coming to know myself and my preferences and learning out how to distinguish between preference and fear, which means having the courage to walk through fear, which means ….. and waking up in the morning. Get the idea?
So, here I am writing on my own experience and wisdom. Am I changing the world? I am certainly changing my world.
“You can feel yourself. Not as a stranger in the world. Not as something here on probation. Not as something that has arrived here by fluke. But you can begin to feel your own existence as absolutely fundamental.” ~Alan Watts
Building a better view of me
This is highly important for me to remember. I spent years neglecting myself to the point that when I found myself alone in the vast open space of my tiny little living room one day, I realized that I had somehow lost a connection with myself. I’d even go as far as to say that I was a stranger to myself. I wouldn’t make eye contact passing me by on a busy street. Since that day, I’ve been rekindling that relationship. I’ve slowly been stepping out, being brave and doing the things I’ve always dreamed of doing; living a life I had always thought was not a possibility for me. Now, I find myself in a space where I enjoy… me. I am an awesome guy and great to hang out with. This new life I have is an adventure of discovering what I am capable of. However, my self-confidence (as relating to my view of myself through my perceptions of the opposite sex)… is pretty well shot. It needs an overhaul. Some days I crave female companionship… romance… falling in love. But, I won’t because I’m not at a place where I can yet view myself as worthy of any of that. That needs to change, so I think I’m going to take this advice and start dating myself. I need to find that worthiness, because out of the 7 billion people on this Earth… I am the only one that can fix this. 🙂
We are Wothy
This is a good thing to remember on a Monday. I can easily get discouraged when mind wanders toward all the things that can be perceived as “lacking” in different areas of my life. I can slide down the steep side of Maslow’s Hierarchy and not because I’m in actual danger, but because I perceive it as such. Even though I’m not where I want to be in life, I have made some amazing progress and as long as I continue to try, I’ll continue to grow. If I can keep myself in this mindset, good things do come my way. There is nothing in the universe that would take away happiness but my own self-driven ego that wants to convince me I am not worthy. We are all, one-hundred-percent worthy of happiness. We don’t have to do ANYTHING at all to deserve it. Happiness is the natural state of existence. Fear, worry and insecurity takes effort to be maintained.
Giving up Vs. Letting Go
This was a question I found myself pondering a couple months ago. What I came to was much different. Sometimes, I hold on to ideas that seem worth working hard for, but are actually toxic. If I have it in my head that what I believe is what is real, when life works against that belief, chaos ensues. I can percieve the chaos as trials and tribulations, as difficult times to endure… all will be well as long as I hold to my principles. When I need to let go of these firmly held misconceptions, I have to give up the fight first. Concede. Only when I give up, may I let go. I agree that giving up is self defeating, but sometimes I need to defeat self before I can let go of what no longer works for me. Self-defeat, then rebuild. Any thoughts?
This idea is important to me. I have “grump” days (like everyone), when my attitude is simply poopy. Yesterday was one such day. It’s normal enough to have grumpy days, but I don’t like them. This idea helps me on these days.
I am an expression of the entire Universe. From my perspective at any given moment, I am at the center of that expression. Ego wants to claim that as a validation of selfness. But it is no such validation. I am at that center only from my perspective, which gives me the opportunity to observe the universe. On those grumpy days, ego wants to observe phenomena that encourage grumpiness. I have all sorts of problems with people, places and things. What helps me is remembering that I’m just observing the Universe in limited forms. I don’t have to do anything to change how I’m thinking or feeling. If I simply observe how I observe, I gain insight to my”self” and my expression has the opportunity to change.
So, Yesterday was a grumpy day, but what I got out of it was that there are things I want to do in life that I’m not doing. My grumpiness was the result of an inner dialogue of resentment at my life as it is. This resentment surfaced from nowhere, but the urgings, I now see, have been there for quite some time. So, the moral is, by observing how I perceive, I can (sometimes) discover some preference I have hidden behind grump.
I don’t know if any of this makes sense, but if it does, I hope it helps. HAPPY FRIDAY!!
All is always all
This concept is true for more than small acts of kindness. Everything we do affects everything else. All of it is interconnected. The ripples of my actions span distance and time. I should not ever use this concept to shame myself for my past. Instead, it is fun to visualize (maybe even as a meditation) the little things I can do right now and follow the ripples across time and space. For example, these daily shares. I don’t write them to help others. Nope. These exist for purely selfish reasons. They keep me writing and thinking about writing. They put me “out there” so that I don’t isolate. I have no idea who reads these, and so I can imagine that the stuff I say is seen by either no one or a great many (or anywhere in between). They help me adjust my thinking first thing in the morning, which helps me to align my perspectives for the day (in other words, since I have been doing them, my days have been getting better and better). There are other selfish reasons for writing these, all of which I do to honor the Me that I truly want to be. But I do like to imagine that perhaps one thing I say will help someone have a better day. And maybe that person will use it to help others and they in turn will continue spreading the idea. So, I guess the moral of this story is that it’s important to remember that everything I do causes ripples. What I want more than anything is to cause helpful ripples. And I know that as long as I keep trying, I will. Have a great Thursday! smile emoticon
Happy Earth Day
Happy Earth Day! I do my best to be conscious of my impact on the environment. Of course, I could always do more, but I think it is a good thing to at least be conscious of my impact. It’s a good place to start, anyway. I really like this message from Thich Nhat Hanh. We (whether we realize it or not) have deeply personal and individual relationships with the Earth. The nature of our relationship is entirely up to us. But it is up to us individually. In other words, I am responsible for my relationship. This beautiful planet provides absolutely everything I need to survive, thrive and be happy. It’s important to consider what I do in life to express gratitude for this above-and-beyond physical, mental and spiritual sustenance. Doing so helps me avoid taking this precious life for granted and reminds me of yet another reason to be happy!
“There’s a revolution that needs to happen and it starts from inside each one of us. We need to wake up and fall in love with Earth. Our love and admiration for the Earth has the power to unite us and remove all boundaries, separation and discrimination. We need to re-establish true communication–true communion–with ourselves, with the Earth, and with one another as children of the same mother.”
Relax, don’t take yourself too seriously
This was exactly the thing I needed to read this morning. Yesterday, I spent the entire day on the couch, eating “food” I very rarely eat (completely outside of my normal diet), and playing video games. It was a day in the life of myself from years and years ago. I could have spent the day “better”. I could have gone to the gym, on a hike, cleaned my house, worked on some projects, meditated, blah blah blah. But, I needed a day where I could just chill. Just chill. So, I took one of those days. The guilt is there today, but it is minimal. I feel rested and have been wanting a reset lately. Today, back on track. I have an eye exam to get new glasses and contacts. Gym after that and yoga after that. I’m planning organic rolled oats for breakfast and a large amount of fresh salad for lunch. Fruit for snacks. Maybe I’ll end my day with a half hour of video game time if I accomplish everything I want to accomplish.
I love Alan Watts. This transcript is worth reading and the video is worth watching. One thing he mentions, and my deciding factor for making this my daily share, is how language (at the very least) points to our social world view. “Nature is wiggly” he says, but humans “think we understand things when we have translated into terms of straight lines and squares”. This reminded me of a book I read for my Senior Capstone class “Metaphores We Live By” (George Lackoff and Mark Johnson) which dives rather deeply into this concept. We don’t spend much time thinking about how we think; we just go through the day. But if we just take a few moments and listen to the words we use, we become aware of how our world view may not agree with how we want to feel.
We like to quantify and qualify and categorize and label everything. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a negative thing to do, but when our world view is strictly defined… there is little space for insight. It is beneficial to take a break from definition to simply experience phenomena for what it is (without making any semantic decisions about what it is… that is, without putting it into words). I watch the patterns of water flowing in the creek in my back yard. When my educated mind is active, I’m curious about how those patterns are caused; temperature, stream and depth (among others) are some factors that dictate how the water flows. But when my creative mind is engaged… the water just flows chaotically and from it a simple beauty emerges worthy of my gratitude. What I mean is that I can witness nature sustaining itself at any moment… and then realize that I am amongst it… a part of it. Then my life has a little perspective. I can see the chaos of flow in my life is how my life sustains itself. This is communion. I don’t have to describe, I just have to be.
p.s. I realize that this whole post is something akin to an Infernal Irony, but I wanted to share it anyway, so take it with a grain of salt.
This idea has been part of my morning meditation every day for several months. Actually, what I focus on is freeing myself from the walls I’ve built of fear, worry and insecurity. These walls keep me from spaciousness, or they fill the purity of spaciousness in life. Spaciousness is lack of judgment and expectation. Spaciousness is immediate and unconditional acceptance. I have momentary glimpses of this space in all areas of my life and in some areas, I dwell mainly in the space. The cool thing about spaciousness is that there is nothing in the way of possibilities. It is from spaciousness that possibilities arise… they need room to grow. So, I try every day to continue chipping away those walls that block my view, that imprison me.