Strange Clouds: Partnering with Change in Everyday Life

Money makes the world go round. Money. Dollars. Coins. Change. There it is. Change makes the world go round. Nothing is permanent.

At a very young age, I openly admitted to myself my fear – or at least dislike – of change. I have yet to decide if this was wisdom or folly. Regardless of my childhood musings over what I thought of the order of the universe, change came, as it does. Back when I was a young warthog, I viewed change as robbery, the merciless theft of beautiful moments. Maybe what makes Change so powerful is she doesn’t give a shit what anyone thinks of her. She just continues about her way, doing her thing – haters back off.

A list of things that change while I write this

The position of the sun in the sky

The shrimp and broccoli currently being dissolved by my stomach acid

The state of fatigue I felt when I woke up

My confidence in composing – or at least publishing – this daily musing

 

I am glad that all of these things change. I have plans today so I am counting on time to follow its course. I don’t want to shit out an entire shrimp so I am grateful for the digestive process. I don’t want to feel tired all day; I am grateful for the impermanence of mental and physical states of being. I want to publish something worth reading; I acknowledge the fluctuations in my confidence and heed the warnings.

Well, well, younger self. Change doesn’t sound so bad now, does it? Be grateful for all the PopTarts you didn’t have to push out your butt in the same form they went in your mouth. Can I get a “amen?” Change is going to happen, is happening, all the time. It’s happening right now, while you read this string of words and electrical signals go racing through your body, processing information. Change is as ever-present as the breath in our lungs. Life becomes so much more peaceful and rich, I have found, once the truth of impermanence is accepted.

In Tuesday’s post, I danced around the subject of my meditation practice. How did practicing meditation aid me in coming to terms with the reality of impermanence? Oh I didn’t just come to terms, I began to be as a business partner with change, – that fickle force of nature – and that has made all the difference.

While seated for meditation, I breathe. That’s all – just breathe. As I sit, I gently guide my attention to my breath and observe the pattern; the inflow and outflow, the rise and fall, and so on and so forth. I don’t try to control the breath. I simply take note of the ever-changing motion and notice the characteristics of the breath – Is it shallow? Deep? Short? Is there any pressure or any other sensations to be noticed. Once you come to a place where you settle into “watching” the breath with ease, you begin to notice all these subtle changes that occur with each passing moment in your body that gives insight into emotional experience, thought processes, and the judgments imposed upon those experiences and processes. I’ve found that the most effective – and most relaxing – way to heed the ancient advice, “Know thyself,” is by sitting down and watching myself breathe. Simple as that.

A key insight I gained from my practice is: Nothing is inherently good or bad, only thought makes it so. There’s a nice little parable that helps explain the rationale behind this insight, called the Parable of the Chinese Farmer. Click that link there and a new window will pop up with an animated version of the short parable and its meaning. Now for the daily question: Why the hell does this matter? Glad you asked. When the nature of impermanence is realized and accepted, judgment begins to fall away from the mind. Judgment is like throwing pebbles into a pond. While constantly throwing pebbles, the water becomes choppy and vision is distorted. When the onlooker stays her/his hand, the water will settle and all things within and reflected on the surface will be seen with clarity.

Do you remember the movie, Pocahontas? Every good story begins with a sudden change in the world the protagonist (main character), has known up till the beginning of said story. In the beginning of Disney-version-Pocahontas’ story, our young Native American princess climbs to the top of the trees by the prompting of her intuition and sees “strange clouds,” that introduce drastic change into her world. The main force of tension that pushes the plot of this treasured animated film forward, is the difference in judgment over this new change. Savages vs. People-like-me; the struggle of opposing perception exists within both camps, with one character daring to challenge the mainstream perspective.

Life is like this, I have found. As change enters our lives from day to day, as it does and as it will, there is a moment of judgment in which we can view the incoming change as savage – to be rejected – or as a welcome newcomer to be greeted and understood.

If you give in to nostalgia and decide to dig out your old VHS copy of Pocahontas tonight, notice as you watch: In the beginning of the movie, Pocahontas sees the sails of the ship – the “strange clouds” – come in and they fill the frame. At the end of the movie when all conflict has been resolved, Pocahontas watches the ship – with it’s “strange cloud” sails – ride the waters into the horizon, and both Pocahontas and the ship can be seen in the frame together, about the exact same size. Maybe as a writer I have a habit of reading too deep into everything (you should see me try to hold a text message conversation with a new romantic interest. It’s pathetic.), but I take this symbolically into my own experience as watching change come in and go out, and demanding the mind to be free of judgment toward all events and identities. Watch the movie with this point-of-view in mind, and you’ll get what I mean. I’m sure the experience will be enlightening.

One quick story and then I’m done, I promise.

I recently began openly considering options for a second job. The restaurant business, it seems, doesn’t always pay all the bills. I was visiting my college campus the other day to get some work done and see some friends who were staying on campus over the summer. Long story short, a wrench was thrown in my plans and I became without transportation to get myself to work that day. I called a friend from school who was staying in the area over the summer and he agreed to help me out. While in the car, he told me that he was working for the summer cabaret at the college, and making decent money, but the cabaret was understaffed and needed more workers. Well, well, well, I thought to myself. How about that. It turned out that a good friend of mine was managing the cabaret staff. I sent a Facebook message and had a second job within hours. The search was over. I would be working with people I knew and loved in a place I knew and loved in an environment that I love – oh and making money, which I like too.

Now I could have panicked when things fell through for me and I realized I didn’t know how I was getting to work. By maintaining a mental state of equanimity, I was able to calmly assess my options and provide a solution, without passing judgment on the situation. The situation ended up turning around and not only did I get to work, but I got a second job out of the ordeal as well. So who knows what is good or bad? By not flipping my lid, I saved myself the hassle of a great deal of stress, and stress is the real killer.

Take away from today’s conversation something practical: kill your judgments. Allow change. Welcome it. Learn from the example of the Chinese farmer and see all situations as they are without judgment, understanding that we do not know how one moment leads to the next and what will come to pass from what currently is. Learn from Disney-version-Pocahontas and actively refuse to pass judgment on events and identities, accepting everything as it comes, partnering with change and enjoying the benefits of every experience while maintaining equanimity. And if you dare to dip your toe in the waters, learn from me and introduce yourself to a simple meditation practice. Train yourself to be conscious of change as it is occurring, cultivate equanimity and stillness. Hold back your stones and view the waters with clarity. And when strange clouds fill your skies, be prepared to love them.

 

 

 

 

Clouds

Lose the Fannypack: Advice for Travelers

I have this friend, Billy. Billy is in China right now with a group of students from our college, including his girlfriend. How nice is that, right? In the fall, Billy will be spending a semester abroad in London. How crazy is that? Good for you, Billy. I’m a huge supporter of international experience. The majority of my friends during my first year and a half of college were foreign students. When I think of the international adventures Billy must be having right now, and how spectacular his fall semester is going to be, I yearn for a plane ticket to anywhere. I’ve been wanting to go to Italy; I’ve been studying the language. But let’s be real, at this point I’d take anything. I just want to get out of my little bubble  and escape Middle-of-Nowhere, Pennsylvania for a while.

I’ve traveled out of the country once. It was my junior year of high school, and I had this teacher, Mr. C. Mr. C was the kind of super laid back teacher that never really gave a student a reason to complain. His class introduced me to the Queen Elizabeth movies starring Cate Blanchett. I think Mr. C fancied her. There were rumors going around about him, but there were rumors going around about everyone nice – and not so nice – back then.

Mr. C had connections with a council in the only big city around in a 100 mile radius. This council provided a travel scholarship for high school students in the region. I know, what is a travel scholarship? I hear that a lot when I tell this story.

75 students from the region competed in a series of interviews and  essays (so many essays) over the course of one academic year. I was living with my grandmother at the time, and she made sure I was on time and present for every interview and dinner throughout the process.  By the time spring had rolled around, 5 students out of the original 75 were selected as recipients of the scholarship. I had never really tried to compete for anything this big before, besides a chess competition I failed miserably at when I was 7. I screamed a little into the phone when I got the call. I was being sent to Mongolia, a country I had never heard named before. I thought maybe I was being sent to Africa.

To be specific, Mongolia rests between Russia and China, east of Kazakhstan (because Kazakhstan is such a great landmark).The plane flight with Korean air was fantastic – free movies and I was fed every three hours. After 7 hours flying across the country, 12 hours soaring over the Pacific, an 11 hour layover in Korea (bear in mind this was my first time flying… and alone), and one last 3 hour flight, my group arrived in Mongolia and hopped in a van headed for Ulaanbaatar, the capital city. The Anujin hotel hosted my group and I at least 3 times during our stay in the country. Of all the places and people I saw and met and wished not to part with, it was the one place I kept coming back to.

I didn’t know what to expect from my month abroad. There was a lot that could happen in a month, and so much did. I hiked the mile-high slope of an extinct volcano. I learned to play traditional instruments and perform traditional dance (don’t ask me to try nowadays). I dipped into the ice-cold waters of Lake Khovsgol. I spent 8 shower-free days living with a wonderful desert nomad family that didn’t speak any English; but they opened their home to me and taught me how to live the life they had always known. Each day of the month was an enlightening experience. I honestly fell in love with Mongolia. I began constructing my dreams of returning before I ever left.

Zaisan Hill – Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

At some point during the trip, I saw a group of middle-aged to elderly tourists sporting fanny packs, noses deep in informational leaflets, listening to their guide tell them all about whatever it was they were going to see. Something was off about them. I couldn’t pinpoint exactly what it was. They was a different look in their eyes than I had seen if my group leader (who was fluent in the native language) that I had been able to relate with. I asked him about the group, my group leader I mean. I asked, how are they going to learn anything from inside their tour bus and behind those informational pamphlets.

“Oh, I’m sure they’ll be pampered the whole time,” he said.

I didn’t like that. It just didn’t sit well, like too much grease in a sensitive stomach.

So I think of my friend, Billy, and all the adventures he’s bound to have, and I have one wish for him: I wish that he doesn’t waste his time being a tourist. I’m sure he won’t. Billy is a smart kid with a good head on his shoulders and a big heart. He’s the kind of guy that hugs you on cloudy days and makes sure people feel welcome. He’s not the kind of person to waste precious time in precious places. Even still, the most beautiful things can be easy to miss, so I make this wish for my friend.

I haven’t traveled since Mongolia. I’ve thought about it, dreamed about it, wished it in the late hours of the night while watching the skies, remembering how the stars of the desert sky were so numerous and bright they lit up the desert in some surreal, fantastical way. The world is chock full of the kind of stuff dreams are made of. You just have to know where to find it.

It would be nice to be a traveler, to invest all my time and resources into roaming the globe, making connections and finding myself in far away places, reporting the thrilling details of my journeys on this very site. It’s good to have dreams, don’t you think? Right now, that’s not in the realm of possibility. There’s a degree yet to be earned and this and that and a little bit of that and this in the way, but one day. One day, I’m sure I’ll see it all right in front of my nose.

Mongolian Ger – Home of a Mongolian nomadic herder

If I never get to travel again, though, it would not be the worst fate. What I could not bear, would not stand for, is to see myself become like those people on the tour bus with their pamphlets and fanny packs and that look in their eyes like they were watching a circus exhibit. Please don’t misunderstand: I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with tourism. Sometimes I really do fancy the idea of a classic 18th-century-style grand tour of Europe once I’ve completed my first master’s degree and have gathered enough funds to go gallivanting across another continent. I adore travel, and I believe everyone should venture outside of their tiny-little-world at least once in their lifetime. But what’s the point of traveling if everywhere you go, everything you see, is viewed like a museum exhibit or some circus wonder? I’d rather break the glass, burn the tent, and get rid of barriers altogether. When I think of travel, I think of the nights spent under the glowing desert sky, singing in English while my host family sings in Mongolian; I think of dancing and learning the strings of the morin khuur, I remember treks on horseback through forest and the icy bite of the waters of Khovsgol. I remember Sainshand and its spraying fountain, and I remember the friends I made and the way my stomach felt heavier when I had to leave them all. I want to feel that everywhere I go, because when I left it felt like leaving home and I would like to know wherever I go in the world, I’ve built a home there – that I’ve become a part of a community. I struggle to think of any greater pleasure.

Good luck being overseas for the rest of the year, Billy. Don’t be afraid to fall in love with a foreign land and all its wonders. Don’t be afraid to feel your heart break when the time comes to a close – that means you did it right.

 

**All images retrieved from Google**
Tourist

I Wish to be Like Water

What superpower did you dream of having when you were a child? I teeter-tottered between flying and invisibility, until I realized it would be better to be a psychic like Professor X or Jean Grey because then I could accomplish both those feats and so much more. When Harry Potter became my obsession, I decided I would become a wizard – a Gryffindor, specifically, although several personality quizzes have placed me in either Hufflepuff or Ravenclaw. No matter.

I’ve flown a few times since then, but that was in an airplane. I did develop a knack for becoming relatively invisible when need be, but not exactly in the literal sense – but that’s a story for another time. It’s funny, in a way, how when you look closely enough at life, you see you get what you wanted as a child, though not in the fashion you might have expected. As is the side-effect of age and experience, my desires have changed, my hopes and dreams have assumed more “tangible” forms for the most part.

I’ll be the first to admit, though, every now and then I will still go to sleep at night imagining myself in all the fictional worlds I once held so dear, with all their strange universal laws and supernatural workings. It’s good to have dreams, don’t you think? Once the imagination dies… we shouldn’t speak of such morbid things.

If you could make your wish now, knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that it would come true, what would be your request? If you had a catalog from which to select any superpower you could imagine – any superhuman attribute, special ability, what-have-you –  what would you choose? Me? I’d wish to be like water.

Get your pinky out of your ear and quit trying to clean out the wax collected from the past week; you heard me right: Water. I would choose to be as water is.

… what exactly does that mean? It’s imagination; it means whatever I want it to mean, I suppose. But think about it. Think about water. Remember when you were in elementary school and your science teacher told you that water is the only substance on earth that exists naturally in three forms (solid, liquid, gas)? How cool is that?! Water can become hard like a rock. It can become liquid, and who can cut, thunder-punch, or body-slam a liquid? And a gas? Evaporation. Water can fly. Water is the ultimate survivor; it takes whatever form is necessary to adapt to whatever conditions it finds itself in, and is constantly recycling itself so it never dies. Water is bad-ass.

Immortality? That’s enough for most people I know to sign their names on the dotted line. Think of all the cool stuff you could do if your superpower was to be like water. Lock yourself out of your car or home? No problem. Simply transmogrify into liquid form and slip easily through the cracks. Missed your flight to LA, Rio, or Paris? Easy-peasy. Evaporate, slip through the air vents into the sky, and race the clouds – or the flight you missed – across oceans (last one there is a rotten egg!). The possibilities are endless, endless I tell you!

When it comes to superhuman capabilities, water is the bee’s knees. Water also has a pretty great memory, which will come in handy in decades to come when younger folk than myself expect me to start going senile.

But think about it, water doesn’t worry about controlling the conditions of its environment. Water doesn’t say “the world around me must look like this or things must be like that for me to be happy and successful.” Water is the most malleable, passive substance on the face of the earth, and yet it has power to shape the face of the earth, carve mountains, cut rivers through continents. And it gives, gives, gives. It gives life to all living creatures. Water is basically the world’s biggest and best philanthropist. Everyone loves water, and for good reason. Who wouldn’t want that?

All those wicked-cool superpowers aside, I think the most recently mentioned attributes are exactly why I would choose to be like water. Are you still with me? Allow me to explain.

When I was a child, I loved Toys-R-Us. I would go every year after Christmas. My concerns were the most recent gadgets and gizmos the childhood entertainment industry had to offer. The extent of my conscious desires was making sure I got to see the newest Pokemon episode. Nowadays I have a different list of concerns and interests. In my younger years of adulthood (because I’m so advanced in years now), I spent a lot of time trying to force the appearance and shape of the world around me to emulate what environment I thought I needed in order to succeed. This consisted of a lot of resistance and empty wishing, which resulted in a constant disposition of frustration and crankiness. It took years of suffering at the hands of depression and anger for me to realize that the world was never going to just snap into place for me because I thought it should or even because I thought I needed it to. That environment I thought I needed to be successful: it would never just come about. I was stuck here, trapped in a world I didn’t want. It was awful.

But if I could be like water, I would be free, right? Free to roam wherever I want whenever I want. Free to flow down mountains and cascade over the highest cliffs into the unexplored depths of the roaring seas. But how could I ever become like water? How in the world could I ever become so free? Step one: I could lighten the fuck up.

Being at odds with my surroundings on a day to day basis, I was a grump all the time, and I mean all the time. Don’t get me wrong, I still had my charming smile and witty sense of humor, but I was a game of chance. You did not want to be my co-worker back then. You never knew from day to day how I was going to walk into work. I had made myself a slave to my environment, so the fortunes or misfortunes of my environment were the dictators of my mood. I’m a very expressive individual. Enough said. Even I got tired of myself. So tired of myself that I realized one day that something had to change, like immediately.

So I started to become like water.

After the example of water, I began to make peace with my surroundings, to accept the world as it was and not hold on so tightly. The greatest skill you can ever learn is the art of letting go. That sounds very idealistic, doesn’t it? Be at peace with the world. Learn to live and let go. Sounds like a bunch of limp-dick hogwash. Maybe, but the world really isn’t the focus. I am. You are. The art of letting go came to me in the form of meditation; five minutes a day, ten minutes a day, forget to sit for three days, five minutes a day, etc… Watching your breath teaches you how impermanent everything is and how pointless it is to grasp so tightly. So I became like water through my practice. I let go, and I began to flow. When I meditate, I’m in liquid form.

A natural side-effect of not being so god-damn stressed all the time (a result of the meditation), is how much easier it was to feel happy, to feel light, like air. Meditation isn’t the easiest practice (especially because the key is to not try – I know, WTF?), but there were days when sitting and watching came so easily and I felt I could sit and stay there forever, watching the ebb and flow of my breath. On those days I would float around like a cloud, feeling joy just from noticing the unique shape and color of blades of grass or the tender kiss of sun-heat on my neck. People liked me in those days, and I liked people. I would unashamedly share my joy with others in fat-smile greetings, authentic complements, reassurance and emotional support, etc…. I just got joy from giving. I was a breath of fresh air.

I was also known – especially by my darling grandmother – to have pretty poor short-term memory. I just forgot things. I used to say to Grandma, “What’s going to happen to me when I reach your age?” A great side-effect to my practice: My memory improved.

The best part of all of these great side-effects of getting turned on to meditation? I felt like a brand new person and nothing in the world around me had changed, and yet everything in the world around me had changed. In yesterday’s post, I talked a bit about perception. I’ve learned along the way that perception is everything. I had started to become just like water. I could exist solidly in the physical world, in a peaceful liquid form while sitting, and as a breath of fresh air in public. My whole view of the world began to change. And most importantly, I became happy again. I did that. Now that’s superpower.

I think humans like the idea of superheros and supernatural powers because we like to fantasize about changing the world around us. I dare to conclude that the supernatural becomes, well, natural when we realize that the secret to changing the world outside, is to change the world within.

 

 

… think about it, water doesn’t worry about controlling the conditions of its environment. Water doesn’t say “the world around me must look like this or things must be like that for me to be happy and successful.” Water is the most malleable, passive substance on the face of the earth, and yet it has power to shape the face of the earth ….

 
Water

There’s No “You” in “Deprive”

Deprive:

(1) to remove or withhold something from the enjoyment or possession of(a person or persons):
(2) to remove from ecclesiastical office.
When it comes to deprivation, I like to believe I know a thing or two. Is that too bold to say? Maybe.
I once shared a phone call with my sister. I don’t remember much of the conversation, except to say that it was a depressing one. There was a time when most of my conversations were depressing. I was a very depressing individual back then. The bulk of the conversation isn’t important, not here at least. All you need to know is I was morose over lost time, time I had firmly believed was stolen from us. “They took that from us,” I said. Years of separation from your twin leaves something to be wanted, an incomplete bond it felt at the time.
Morose: 

(1) gloomily or sullenly ill-humored, as a person or mood.

(2) characterized by or expressing gloom.
I’m not here to complain about the time I lost growing up with my sister. I have no intention of boring you with the tale of how my siblings and I were ripped from each other, suddenly becoming three individual only-children. I promise I won’t go into sad stories of homelessness, hunger, or poverty. I don’t think you want to know. I didn’t want to know, which is why I drank as much as I did – but you’re not here for that story either. I thought maybe we could talk about the mind, and maybe about dichotomies. How does that sound? Let me know at any moment if you want me to stop.
My mother’s favorite television show was Friends. I’ve seen my fair share of episodes. I can see why she liked it. My show of choice is newer. I’ve seen every single episode of Once Upon A Time. I even went back and starting watching from the beginning all over again. What else am I to do while I’m waiting months on end for a new episode. Kitsis and Horowitz: Please write faster. My favorite character? That’s a tough question, funny you should ask. I don’t think I favor any one in particular, but I do see myself sharing a few things in common with Rumplestiltskin. I think any good character is relatable in some way, though, so I would say I have no favorite. But since you asked, let’s focus on Regina, the HBIC (Head Bitch in Charge).
What could I possibly have in common with Regina? I don’t perform magic, but that depends on who you ask. I don’t have a son, and that doesn’t depend on who you ask. I don’t have an affinity for tending to apple trees, and I’ve never tried to kill my parents. On the surface it seems that we are nothing alike, I suppose.
The Buddha is held responsible for once saying something along the lines of: “All that we are is the result of all we have thought.” That’s curious, isn’t it? Sounds kind of like some New Age load of hooey, doesn’t it? But here we are dwelling on the surface of things again.
The Buddha also is supposed to have said: “Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” Seeing as how I took a lot of resentment out on the bottle, in a way this ancient saying was oddly prophetic in my history. Funny how that works.
If you’re not familiar with Once Upon A Time, I may have already lost you. I don’t have a map to help you find your way back, so I do hope you’ve stuck around. Allow me to explain, briefly. Regina (a.k.a. “The Evil Queen”) is the adversary of Snow White, you know the whole poison apple, heart in a box thing. Anyway, in this new take on the tale, the reason for the Queen’s hatred of the princess is the death of Regina’s beloved, Daniel. Let’s make a long story short: As a child, Snow White failed to keep the secret that Regina was having an affair with her stable boy quasi true love. As consequence, Regina’s mother ripped out Daniel’s heart and crushed it in front of Regina so that Regina’s arranged marriage with the King (Snow White’s father) would go on uncompromised. With me so far? Good.
We know the rest of the story. Regina hires a hunstman to rip out Snow’s heart, is betrayed by said hunstman, and (in this version of the story) enacts and curse after a lifetime of unsuccessfully trying to destroy Snow White’s happiness. Well holy shit. Hell hath no fury after all.
What’s all this got to do with me? Well, only a small thing or two. Like Regina, I blamed the unfortunate (as I saw them) events of my adolescent years upon a single act of betrayal. With blame to go around everywhere, the whole finding the object of my hatred deal became a very confusing and stressful matter. What really matters is the desire to apportion blame itself. I won’t pretend that I was all wrong about what had happened and it turned out everything was just a horrible misunderstanding. Oh no, people did what they did sure enough. Things happened because of that, and I resented whoever I found responsible. From that resentment was born a mindset of deprivation. (hint hint. That’s our vocabulary word for the day).

Perceive:

(1) to become aware of, know, or identify by means of the senses:
(2) to recognize, discern, envision, or understand:
I had taken the evidence of my senses and developed the perception that I had been deprived of what was rightfully mine. A normal childhood growing up with my beloved siblings was my birthright, my entitlement. As I grew in years, I carried this perception with me, I clung to my sense of deprivation. It was the source of my right to blame those who had taken from me. Remember the thing about the poison? Remember the thing about becoming our thoughts?
I’ve gone hungry, been homeless (like the real kind when you’re not sure where you’re going to sleep or if you’ll be sleeping today where you did tomorrow), chosen between paying debts and filling my stomach. And at each downturn of my fortune, I felt the familiar tug of deprivation. “Look at all these other people with their fancy cars and their nice houses and their full pantries. They’ve had everything handed to them. They’ll never know what I’ve known. They’ll never be strong like me.” I had it bad.
A pattern began to emerge. I felt deprived all the time. When I saw something good, I felt deprived. When I tasted something good, I knew it wouldn’t last and I felt deprived. When someone did something kind for me, I took it as pity and felt deprived. I began expecting this sense of deprivation and so I created it everywhere I went, my choices being the result of a highly trained mindset, leading to consequences that served to lend credibility to that mindset. I always did like to be right.
So what happened? That’s the question right? Where is this all leading? Why does it matter?
I used to like the phrase, “There’s no ‘I’ in ‘Team’.” There is a ‘me’, but that requires distortion. Similarly, there is no “you” in “deprive.” There is an “I,” and that requires no distortion. The only finger pointed is the one pointing to the self. Yes, I do feel quite clever, thank you very much.
Point being, anything can happen at any moment. Anyone you love or hate could do anything at any time they choose. Therein lies the beauty and danger of free-will. The real potential for danger lies not in what can be done to us but what we can do to ourselves, or rather what we believe has been done to us. Perception is everything. It dictates what conclusions we make of our sensory experiences, therein determining what we believe of the world around us. Going further down this train of thought, perception then determines what choices we deem appropriate and how we view the resulting consequences.
What are you getting at?! You’ve been patient, and we’re at the end here.
What I’m getting at is that no one can deprive you of anything. The only one who can deprive you of anything is yourself.
But surely you didn’t want to be homeless and hungry and poor? Well, no, of course not. But a destructive perception is like a parasite; it infects everything and affects everything. And one day I finally realized that over the years none of the people I wanted to hurt were suffering; only me.
Now one quick note about dichotomies since I promised:
I believe that things come in pairs; night and day, left and right, forward and back. The thing about opposites is that they’re not so much opposed as they are complementary. Hear me out on this.
In Buddhist traditions, – since we’ve already dragged the Buddha into this – there are two main forces that lead to suffering: craving and aversion. We won’t go into detail, but think for a moment of deprivation and entitlement. If one did not feel entitled, one would never feel deprived. The two concepts do not oppose one another as much as they rely on each other for completion. Understanding this simple truth marked a drastic shift in my perception, and this change in perception created a change in my life.
Do yourself a favor. Learn from me.
All images retrieved from Google Image Search
All definitions extracted from Dictionary.com

Deprive

How To: Straddle Fence ;)

I have a very intimate lover. Every intimate lover I’ve known has been needy. There is no exception.

I once courted – with great impropriety – a special friend called “Fence.” We still hookup every now and then, but only once in a blue moon when I’m feeling dirty. I know. Who names their kid “Fence.” But I assure you I’ve known no other name. There’s a level of secrecy between lovers that must be respected, so I don’t protest the unusual title.

Fence always likes me to be on top. “Straddle me baby. Straddle me so good you get stuck on top of me until the wind blows you over.” We had a very active physical relationship. I’ll be honest, it was thrilling. There’s an excitement to not knowing what’s coming next, like being blindfolded and feeling nothing but your lover’s hot breath on your bare skin, waiting for the next touch to come and having no clue as to which part of your body will be chosen or how much pressure or pain will come. If you’re not a thrill-seeker like me, you wouldn’t care for Fence. You’d probably pass him/her right up without a second thought. Did you catch that pronoun ambiguity? Fence has no gender. It’s kinky.

Let me tell you about the first time. I still get chills and a rush of heat beneath my zipper.

I was 18. Fresh meat. Naive and full of ideals and dreams and silly plans with no logistical foundation. Most of all, I wanted to get away from home, at any cost. Fence swore it would be good for us.

I went with Fence all the way to Texas. My ears buzzed and the space between my shoulder and my neck tickled at 30,000 feet for almost 12 hours. It was a new kind of ecstasy. I had never really exposed myself to drugs – not in the common stereotype, at least – up till that point so any ecstasy would have been new, but this was my dragon, and I’ve been chasing it ever since.

I’m like most Westerners. I like new. I like fast too, but you wouldn’t care about that unless you’re Fence, and you’re not. My first month in Texas passed in a dazzle of new. New skies (always painted), new stars (always numerous), new people (not always polite), new weather (always warm), new bugs (always big), new food (always worth trying), new, new, new. It was electric. Fence doesn’t like me to get carried away. Fence does like me to get my hopes up, though, as long as I never become too confident. There’s power in doubt, and power is everything.

Fence isn’t good at making money, and I was so busy with my internship that I didn’t have the time to make money. But there’s one thing I know to do whenever worries like these come up: throw caution to the wind and straddle Fence, just hop right on and ride like Seabiscuit until the custodial staff comes knocking about noise complaints… from the custodial staff. Then proceed forward, which could be any direction really. It depends on how the sex ends. I always let Fence choose.

How many words have I written so far? I read somewhere that a successful blog post should contain at least 1500 words.

Fence and I got kicked out of Texas.

Okay, that’s not completely true. I got kicked out of my internship. Depending on who you ask, that’s not entirely true, either. At least one person had decided I didn’t trust Jesus enough. Fence doesn’t know what to think of that, so I pretend I never heard it.

After the internship, Fence and I returned home. It was an immediate decision, maybe primal instinct you would think. It was Fence’s decision. Things weren’t working on this side, so we had to go back to the other, and I straddled Fence the whole way back.

We started a trend, me and Fence. When shit goes wrong you move on, get the hell outta there and let it burn in peace. Hop on top of Fence and get fucked the whole way over to the other side. Fucking Fence is exhausting. My doctor – like I actually have a doctor – says its not healthy, but Fence says it’s the best thing that could ever happen to a person. More is better, right?

So what does this all have to do to you? You don’t care about my sex life. You’ve never met Fence. You probably don’t even care about Texas, failed music breakthroughs, my countless indecisions. Well, you might.

I recently ended things with Fence. The relationship was too one-sided. Besides great sex and paralyzing anxiety empowered by poor decision making, I really wasn’t getting anything out of it. The sex might have been worth it at one point, but I got tired of always being on top, always doing all the work.

This is where you come in. Fence is a peculiar kind of being, from another planet or world, I’m convinced. Fence is a textbook manchild. Fence needs. Fence needs attention (CONSTANTLY). Fence needs action (intense and CONSTANTLY). Fence needs raging anxiety in order to woo his prey. Fence needs extremes; extreme choices, dichotomies, fear littered with hope, that sort of thing. Fence feeds on those things – it’s a curious diet I have yet to understand.

The point is, if you can’t provide these things, you will never stand a chance with Fence. If you can provide day in and day out, you qualify for the wildest ups and downs and the constant thrill of getting fucked by Fence. Just remember, Fence likes you to  be on top. It’s to make you think you’re in power, like reverse psychology or something. I figured that out after we went our separate ways.

I ran into Fence today. We still talk sometimes. Today wasn’t a good day for surprise meetings, though. The best way to get rid of Fence – you didn’t hear this from me – is to keep breathing and focus on it. Fence has a big ego and likes to take your breath away. If you keep watching your breath – in and out, rise and fall, expand and deflate – you’re immune to Fence’s power; then you can’t be pulled in. Then you won’t straddle Fence. Then you won’t get addicted.

I’m not going to hit 1500 words. Maybe this metaphor sucks. Why am I even writing this? But I already started. No one’s going to read this. God, this feels so good.

I’m not salty about the whole Texas thing. I was young and needed to learn. Nowadays I don’t put up with that kind of shit. The trick is to keep your eyes forward. Don’t look back when you hear Fence crunching along behind you. Don’t look up when you know Fence is about to drop out of the sky. Don’t fall for the theatrics. Keep your eyes forward. Don’t worry about repeated attempts to pull you in. Fence has a hard time taking “no” for an answer; it’s the ego thing. The key is to keep breathing.

 

 

Fence

Hello – ADELE is back!!

Well hello there. It’s been a while. Did you miss me? Life has been hectic over here in Middle-of-Nowhere, Pennsylvania. Since we last met I’ve broken my phone, been the victim of an accidental overcharge from my insurance company that over-drafted my bank account, been reduced to multiple fits of hysterics over the cosmic battle for dominance of the responsibilities of adult life and college, double major life. But enough of that. These are stories for another day. I am here as a phoenix, risen from the ashes of my mental breakdown, to introduce you to a magnificent work of art.

As of 10/22/2015, Adele released a brand new music video on her Vevo channel on YouTube. Last I had heard, Adele – still basking in the success of her latest album (21) and the hit “Skyfall” – had been rumored to be considering a musical sabbatical following her then recent vocal surgery and earth-shattering victory at the Grammy’s.

In a 2012 interview with Vogue, Adele denied the rumors that she would be indulging in an extensive break from music, yet for the past 3 years the pop superstar hasn’t been showing up under the spotlight. The world of pop-fandom and Adele fanatics are going wild now that Adele has released “Hello,” her first single since “Skyfall” (2012 Grammy winner).

In her newest ode-to-relationships-failed, Adele keeps to her usual theme of love lost, but breaks off from the familiar victim-of-heartbreak mentality. The well-crafted composition draws the listener into the musings of a regretful soul at the moment of epiphany. Adele’s pensive ballad acknowledges regrets that come hand in hand with a crystal-clear hindsight. At the same time, the song focuses primarily on the breakthrough moment in the acquisition of peace, a peace though that doesn’t fully extinguish the last residual embers of longing. The latest and greatest track from the British pop icon features clever lyrics, haunting vocals dripping with emotional conflict, and the kind of heart-rendering nostalgia that has been flooding into the world of pop music. According to an interview with Zane Lowe, “Hello” will be featured on Adele’s new album, 25, set to be released November 20, 2015. Scroll down to experience Adele’s latest gem for yourself.

What do we think? New hit on the way? New hit album? Does Adele have another collection of Grammys coming her way? Tell me what you think. Give me your predictions. I, personally, listened to the song 3 times this morning before my Italian language class (thank God I woke up early), and am now sharing it with all of you instead of studying before my Medieval History class. Anyone else on board with Adele’s newest masterpiece?

Keep moving forward…

Change Your Mind

Happy Monday.

At the beginning of each new week, there is a certain sobriety that pervades the atmosphere (aside from the last signs of weekend hangovers fading away.) It is caused by a somber recognition of loss shared in the hearts of the student body every Monday over here in Middle-of-Nowhere, Pennsylvania. It is the loss of the weekend, the loss of temporary relief from droning lectures, the loss of precious time when we should have employed our energies toward catching up on all the work we are so desperately behind on.

Every Monday is a ritual. The shrill squawk of multiple alarms shatter the tranquility of sleep. Snooze buttons are violently assaulted. And this process repeats about 3-5 times for each student.

I must acknowledge my own deep loathing of Mondays; they are tired days. It wasn’t always this way. There was a time when I was quite alright with beginning a new week, eager to take on new challenges and what-not. Such enthusiasm has deserted me.

I confessed to a friend last night that sometimes – including the current moment – I wish I didn’t care so much, that I didn’t have the uncompromising drive to excel. I bet life is so much less stressful for those students who have no problem seeing a B on their transcript; or God forbid… a C.

But I know myself. I know what I want. I know intimately what all my ambition – taxing as it may be at times – leads me toward. I’ve been tripping steadily over my own two feet long enough to know when I need a pick-me-up, something to straighten my spine when my posture begins to become slack. Sometimes that one crucial necessity… is fresh motivation. Simple solution, right? Wrong. Searching for this motivation, as we all know, can at times be as futile as a hunt for the Holy Grail.

This is why you have me. While I was browsing YouTube in my first waking hour – go figure – with my mug of Colombian roast in hand, I found it. You’re welcome. (I’m not referring to the Holy Grail, mind you, although I might as well be.)

The answer was as simple as 3 words:

Change your mind.

Obviously, there are many possible contexts that could influence the interpretation and intended meaning of this phrase. As my word count is starting to rise to a height inappropriate for a Monday’s attention span, I will simply post the video below.

The video is only five minutes in length, but honestly, you don’t need to watch the whole thing if you just don’t have the time. I was feeling refueled before the first minute had gone by. Watch on your lunch break. Sacrifice viewing the inspiring visuals and listen to the audio on your drive.

Enjoy. You’ve got this.

Keep moving forward.

P.S. I will now be creating a new page on this blog labeled “Monday Motivation” where I will be posting content like this video that boils the blood and gets you ready to take on the world. Every Monday morning – and whenever you’re feeling run down – be sure to check out that page for new inspirational material.