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Posts Tagged ‘mental-health’

cherry-mirror

 

As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives. – Henry David Thoreau

I have had the beautiful privilege of having relationships with my grandparents well into adulthood.  My grandmother and I have known one another for 42 years, longer than so many relationships these days.  It is an awesome experience to move beyond the ignorance of youth and into a space where I can learn about my grandmother as a person, as a woman who has experienced many things.  It also means my mind has had more time to create troublemaking bullshit.

We are a rough, proud people with an independent streak that runs deep and wide, so the reality that age eventually brings with it fragility and a need for relocation and added support, comes as quite a surprise to a mind such as mine that prefers to live in denial around such things.  My mantra over the years has been that the only way I want to see my grandmother leave her house is in a box.  Not that I wished for my grandmother’s death, oh no.  On the contrary, I prayed over and over again that she be able to stay in that house until her last breath, and I convinced myself that it was what she wanted as well.

Imagine my shock when things began to play out in another way.  My grandmother, who has been on the waiting list for a retirement home for a number of years, finally got the call that a unit has become available.  And she accepted.  My grandmother will be leaving her house, but not in the way my mind had created, not in a box, but of her own free will!

Have you ever tried to take away a cherished toy from a young child?  It’s bedlam.  There are loud animalistic noises that sound like someone is being killed, and an obsessive, desperate grabbing, grabbing, grabbing for the one thing that is, “MINE!  MINE!  MINE!”  It’s very much like this in the mind as well when you try to take away the long-held story.

Quite simply, I freaked.  My mind was a roaring shitstorm running around from corner to corner screaming, “NO!  MINE MINE MINE!  MY NANNY!  MY HOUSE!  MY NANNY IN HOUSE!  MY NUMBER 27!  MY KITCHEN!  MIIIIIIIIINE!”  Oh my lord, it has been painful.  And ridiculous.

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali speak of three types of mental afflictions that ultimately cause human suffering:  clinging, pulling away and denial. I have been suffering from all three as I hang on to a false story like a life preserver, pulling away from any possibility other than my false story, and shoving my head deep in the sand in order to avoid facing the situation altogether.

Running from reality is like trying to outrun your conjoined twin.  You can twist your head in the opposite direction all you want but that doesn’t change the fact that your twin, reality, is completely connected to you.  Best to stop, breathe, look and learn to live with this thing, right?  So, I stopped.  Stopping was hard, I won’t lie, but I did it.  I stopped and took this hysterical part of me to the yoga mat, to the garden, to the meditation cushion.  We spent a lot of time together.  There was a good deal of gut-wrenching crying that had me looking like this:

Bags_Under_Eyes_Secret_of_the_Puffy_Peepers-231x300It wasn’t pretty but, even though I could not see clearly from my physical eyes (due to unsightly swelling, of course  🙂 ), I could suddenly see from the eyes of my heart.  I could see that my grandmother was old, fragile, afraid and in need of help.  I could see she was ready and able to let go of the house in order to build a home somewhere else.  I could see her need for companionship and community, something she could no longer access at her current location.  I could see my grandmother having the strength to let go, to be free and to move on.  How incredibly selfish of me to ask her to stay, suffering deeply, for the sake of my mind’s story and my emotional comfort!  Suddenly the pathway of the mind shifted from “My grandmother is going to ‘the home’ to die,” to the new pathway of “My grandmother is going to this new place to LIVE!”  And with this shift has come a profound and solid peace.

My one teacher taught, “The mind is the cause of the problem.  The mind is the solution to the problem.”  No kidding!

If you have found yourself walking through your life disgruntled by some aspect or another, might I suggest you simply crack a bit of time in your world to sit with that feeling?  Just a few moments–in the car, in the bathtub, in the garden…Nothing laboured.  Not a project.  Not in an effort to change or fix things.  Just some soft, gentle time with the feelings, time to help you begin to familiarize yourself with the tapestry your mind has been weaving.  Often, all that’s really required to make a profound shift is this time.  It’s like walking into a dark room and turning on the lights; things automatically look different.

May you have the courage to stop, to stay, and to see.  May your afflictions, the things that cause you such great pain, simply drop away on the breath, with ease.  May your heart know space.  May your life be filled with love.

My Nan and me almost 7 years ago on her 80th birthday

My Nan and me almost 7 years ago on her 80th birthday

All my love,

Tabitha

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Dragon-91

I had this dream, as a child, that my Grandfather and I were being chased by a fire-breathing dragon around the nursery school I attended.  We were running for our lives through the labyrinthine hallways, narrowly escaping the monster.  With the shadow of the beast reflecting off every wall at every turn, I could hear my Grandfather’s laboured breathing and I knew, in the end, we wouldn’t make it–the monster would win.

As an adult, this is how I’ve led my life, running from one dragon or another, only now the dragon has shifted from the green, scaly beast to invisible entities with names like Shame, Rage, Fear, and Love.  Any “large scale” emotion gets my feet feeling like hot potatoes and, before I know it, I’ve busted out along the road, running and wheezing, although not really sure why.

This past week delivered me to the shores of the poisonous lake of Shame.  Shame of my body.  Shame of womanhood.  Shame of aging.  Shame of sexuality and relationships and body hair and simple everyday thoughts.  Whatever it was that was going on in my life, it seemed to be coated in the corrosive slime of Shame.  I knew it was there, I could feel it in my body:

– rapid pulse

– shallow and quick breathing

– a sense of constriction in my chest

– interrupted sleep

– reduced appetite

– feeling a need to wretch

(Do you know any of these?)

And my mind followed after my body, becoming cloudy, with thoughts trying to move through a thick, pudding-like fog.

Shame.  Although it could have been Fear or Love or anything.

What do you do when you get triggered by large emotions?  Me, like I said, I run.  I run like crazy and I run in all sorts of different ways.  I become obsessed…with ANYTHING.  I feel the need to keep doing, and what I do tends to push my body to an unhealthy edge. I push too hard in the garden.  I push too hard in exercise. I feel it’s utterly necessary to dance, and then I push too hard once again.  I simply push too hard…in my relationships, in my body, in my mind.  All of this in the simple attempt to outrun the beast, the thing I don’t want to face, the thing I am convinced will kill me if I stop for even a moment to look around.

A person cannot run forever.  I, for one, am super tired.  Yesterday, as I was beginning to lose steam and was starting to think, “This thing is going to catch up with me.  I’m doomed,” a new thought entered my mind, “What if I just…stop?”  What would happen if I just stopped running?  If I know, in the long run, I cannot sustain avoidance, that avoidance will ultimately kill any joy and vitality in my life, what’s the risk in stopping?  If I don’t, I will lose everything anyway.

Many schools of martial arts teach that, instead of engaging in a conflicted relationship with an opponent by pulling away, soften the interaction, make connection by stepping towards the threat and into the situation.  Channel the energy inwards. Yesterday my friend emailed me this gem, “Shame only says these things because it fears that you will figure out how truly awesome you are and leave it behind for good.”  Something about that broke my heart.  Nothing likes to be abandoned.  Why, then, do I abandon that part of me, the dragon, that clearly wants to make contact, that is asking for something from me, that is asking for my time and my love?  Why not move inwards and make a connection with the thing I fear the most?

So I stopped.  I put on the brakes and fixed myself to the spot.  And the dragon stopped with me.  Soon I will drum up the courage to turn around, to sit down, and to observe this thing that chases me.  I will give it my time and my attention. Eventually, I hope to approach the beast (perhaps with a yummy slice of pie) and to give it a hug.  This is the woundedness in me that begs to be touched, to be comforted, to be heard, to be healed and there is no one in the world but me who can do this.  And there’s no one in the world who does not have this woundedness within them–we all have it; no one is alone in this experience.

I think we’re given these big emotions as tools to break open our hearts.  How can we shame someone else when we know the crippling pain of shame ourselves?  How can we actively threaten the safety of another when we know abject terror?  How can we not extend love freely when we’ve fully taken love into our own hearts?

So the next time you get the sense that you’re freaking out, that you’re running away from something that is making you uncomfortable, take out this tiny little note that I’ve sent along to you and with you:  This may be the tool, the opportunity you’ve been waiting for.  Stop, breathe, look, love…and offer it pie.

Maybe we’ll both get the chance to see that the dragon just isn’t all that scary.

cutedragon

If you catch sight of me the next time you’re running, screaming, down that road, stop and come grab a seat beside me.  We’ll breathe together.  Maybe we’ll do lunch.  Just know I will be there, that I have been there, and will, no doubt, wind up there again. This learning is forever.  😉

May we be happy.

May we not suffer.

May we know peace.

All my love and blessings,

Tabitha

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no-new-years-resolutions

 

I’ve never really understood the whole New Year’s resolution thing.  Maybe it’s not the setting of resolve that baffles me, but the way in which we go about setting intentions for ourselves that has me confused.  As the year comes to a close I witness more and more people stepping onto their soap boxes and proclaiming a long list of things that they WILL accomplish in a year, so help them God.

I WILL:

– lose 50 pounds by following the (fictitious) Iceberg Lettuce Diet

– go to the gym 5 times a week (when I haven’t worked out at all in 25 years.  Do yourself a favour and book some space in the ER for day 3, k?)

– practice yoga every day and become enlightened (I’ve never done yoga a day in my life.)

– quit smoking

– quit my job and follow my dream of becoming a pipe cleaner statue artist

-etc., etc.

REALLY?

Why do we do this to ourselves?  Why do we heap such pressure on an already overly pressurized life?  Why do we proclaim enormous lists of unrealistic things to the whole world?  Why do we set ourselves up for failure?  The University of Scranton estimates that 8 percent of Americans who make New Year’s resolutions (approximately 45% of the population) succeed (Source:  http://www.statisticbrain.com/new-years-resolution-statistics/).  8 percent, folks!  That’s dismal.

Don’t get me wrong (I say that a lot, don’t I?  🙂 ), I’m all for dreaming and goal-setting.  My dear god, how dreary would life be if we just sat there, striving for nothing?  Be whimsical.  Imagine.  Dream.  Create.  Push your limits.  And be realistic about where your life is at.

Humans, generally, do not like change.  Like our pet cats who all seem to know when 5 a.m. rolls around and demand to be fed (and don’t you dare move their favourite pillows!), we like routine.  I think it gives us a sense of safety in an unpredictable world.  Change, even when it’s positive, creates stress; there’s an upheaval in our nervous systems and we need time to settle down and find ground again.  Trying 15 life changes at once, just because the calendar reads “Janary 1”, is chaos!  It’s absurd.

How about 1?  Pick one.  One thing that means so much to you that you’d like to make it a priority in your life.  Put that carrot ahead of you and see what happens as you begin to grow towards it.  And leave the door open to the possibility that, as you move towards your desire, your desire will change or it won’t seem so desirable any more.  By all means, quit smoking if it’s that important to you, and understand that you may discover you’re not quite ready to go there.  Love yourself enough to allow that to happen.

Maybe we can all let go of our inner Drill Sergeants that insist on long lists of “must dos” set at the beginning of the year and simply open up, quietly and gently, to the life that unfolds before us.  It’s the difference between blasting your way through rocky mountains using dynamite, and moving slowly through a forest, pushing undergrowth aside using your hands.

May your life open up to you like a flower blooming in the sun.  May you take the time to slow down enough to watch this unfolding and unfurling of the complexities of your beautiful life.  May you continue to grow (gently), to plant seeds (consistently), and to change course when that’s what your soul really needs.

Happy resolution-free New Year, dear readers!

Love,

Tabitha

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Just because we cannot see it does not mean the sun has stopped shining.  Even on a cloudy day, the sun shines.  Sometimes we forget so here is a little piece of sunshine for you to carry around.  May you always find the light.

Namaste,

Tabitha

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