Basic Meditation Tutorial for Beginners

Basic Meditation Tutorial

Have you ever wanted to drop everything, clear your mind, and get in touch with the present, but had no idea where to begin?

Have you been plagued by a constant narrative of thinking going around and around in your head?

Then sit back and get comfortable, this guide is going to provide the steps, tools, and concepts to effective meditation and relaxation.

Why Meditate?

Is reading this article the only thing you are doing right now? Be honest, are you also mid-text, eating a banana, and catching up on the latest episode of Shark Tank?

All I ask of you to follow the guide is to give this article your full, undivided attention, just till you finish reading. And don’t worry about being perfect, just try your best.

There, now that I have your complete focus, think about how you feel, both in your body and mind. Compare how you feel now to how you did just a few moments ago when you were multitasking.

Do you feel slightly calmer, or maybe just a bit more in control of yourself? If not, can you define what is making you feel tense or anxious?

Understanding how your body and mind feel, and why, is just one of the many benefits that regular meditation can deliver, along with increased health, better focus, decreased anxiety, and even higher levels of creativity.

Preparing to Meditate

There are many different methods to meditation. Truly, there is no limit to the possibilities and practices of focusing the mind. Here, I am simply going to describe a basic method of meditation to try out.

I suggest if you enjoy this, to read more on how to make meditation a regular habit in your life. There are many ways to do this, but right now I just want to talk about trying it out for a short time and getting a feel for the practice.

Once you have decided you would like to meditate, get into a comfortable position. This could be sitting up or laying down, but if you lie down place your palms on your thighs to ensure you do not fall asleep.

However, this can really be done anywhere: on the train, in an elevator, at the pool. Those venues may take more concentration than being alone in your room or outside, but aptitude for increased ability is really boundless.

Meditation is like a spiral, you can keep getting better and better at it, but there is no end to how far you can go.

It may be a good idea to set a timer for this, in order to ensure that you know how long you are going to do it for, and to set a goal for yourself beforehand.

Finding the Breath

Now that you are hopefully in a comfortable position, gently begin to observe your breath, without judging or changing anything.

Just notice how you breathe, whether it is through the nose or the mouth, where the oxygen travels to in your body (Diaphragm? Chest?), do you breathe shallow, or deep?

There are certain techniques that can be employed to using the breath to meditate, but this tutorial is going to center more around the mind/body connection.

So for now, just notice the present state of the breath, accept it unconditionally, and just concentrate the mind on your breathing for a few moments.

If focusing like this is challenging for you, you can try counting the number of seconds that your inhalations and exhalations last, or even the number of breaths you take.

Counting is one of the simplest ways to both return and keep the mind in the present moment.

Checking in With the Body

When your breath is steady and your mind feels relaxed and focused on breathing, you can next attempt to shift your concentration to the way your body surrounds the breath.

Hopefully you arrived into a comfortable position earlier, whatever that may be for you. But just like you did with your breath, go ahead and observe the body just as it is without changing anything.

If you find yourself feeling uncomfortable at any point, however, adjust your posture or body accordingly. Try to avoid this if possible for a fuller meditative experience.

A body scan comes next in order to fully relax. This is where you will bring the awareness of your mind throughout your body and consciously relax all the muscles to melt into the floor.

Performing a body scan take many different internal forms. You could start with your fingers and toes, working your way toward the core of your body.

You could begin with the head, working your way all the ways down to the toes. You can imagine muscle groups, organs, and other internal body structures relaxing. You can even concentrate on the chakras, if you are familiar with them.

One method is breathing healing energy into the body part, and exhaling and letting it go. Another is clenching or tightening the area as much as possible on the inhale, then exhaling and releasing.

There is no wrong way to do this, simply do whatever feels comfortable, while allowing you to check in with the body, and relax it bit by bit.

You may find your mind wandering, and totally off topic at any point during this. That is completely normal, and just gently think back to where you were when you left off, and continue from there.

Your Remaining Thoughts

If you can go slowly and methodically, you will find that by the time you have completed the entire body, your brain and thoughts will have slowed down dramatically. You may even be feeling sleepy.

Go with wherever the momentum is taking you. You may indeed fall asleep, or start twitching as if you might, so I often find it helpful to set an alarm for those longer sessions, just in case.

Alternatively, you may find that you are bored, or your mind keeps drifting away from you. You will probably get the urge to stop meditating and check the time, your phone, or do anything else at all.

If your brain is not used to silence and stillness, 30 seconds can seem like a lifetime. This is why it is especially helpful to begin with short increments.

However, even an experienced meditator will still feel the impulse to get up and abandon the practice for some other whim. This is healthy and natural. Try not to resist or act on the notion, simply observe it with curiosity.

Try to learn about your brain as you observe the various ways in which it reacts to meditation. The goal here is to recognize thoughts as they come, but understand that you don’t have to act on them.

Afterward

You may find following your first time meditating that you feel calmer, more anxious, or not at all different.

The effects of meditation are sometimes unnoticed until you need them. All of sudden you will find yourself remembering to breathe during times of stress or anxiety. You will find yourself sitting still without automatically trying to find some sort of distraction to take you away from the present moment.

At times your may hate meditation, and others you will love more it than anything. So congratulations on your journey to more self-awareness. You are on your way.

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My Year in Review

2015

Happy New Year everyone! I hope it is the best year ever 🙂

This post is adopted from one on Zen Habits. Thanks for the inspiration!

This is going to be a very honest review about my year, including successes, failures, and lessons learned.

The biggest things I learned this year:
  • That it is not a bad thing to admit defeat and accept help from others. Life cannot be truly lived without connecting with other people. And there is humility in understanding that I cannot do it alone.
  • How to connect with my higher power. I have learned a lot about God and spirituality this year, for which I am eternally grateful.
  • If I change my thinking, the world will change in accordance to that. When I decided to begin believing in what I wanted for my life, I begun to get those things.
  • To follow the compass that is my heart. Love makes no sense to humans, and there is no rhyme or reason as to why one path is better than the other. But the part of God that is in me draws me one way or the other, and going along with that is beneficial to me, always.
  • Play to my strengths. I can waste a lot of time getting only marginally better at something I don’t enjoy, or I can embrace what I do well and comes naturally to me, and use it to take me places.
  • Nothing is ever over. The whole world is in a constant, steady state of evolution. I will waste time thinking I know that one is one and the other is the other. There is no separation between thoughts and things, and nothing is absolute. It would go against natural laws.
  • Go big or go home. I can and do have everything I have ever needed within myself. I set goals in order to uncover what I am capable of manifesting in my life. I plan on testing the boundaries of what I can do.
  • Ask for what I want. This one I just fully realized I have been learning for quite a while.
Successes
  1. Began my first two blogs. Besides this one, my other blog is called Thru Hiking Vegan, which is dedicated to my 2015 Appalachian Trail thru-hike. When I started this one, I had no idea what to expect, and whether or not I would even stick with it. Although I haven’t posted as much as I would have liked to, I am indeed proud that I have been posting more or less consistently, and that I have garnered quite a little following for my writing. Thanks guys, I couldn’t have done it without the encouragement and interaction from my readers. You rock.
  2. 2. Dedicated myself to yoga. I have now been doing yoga as a practice since June 6, 2014. I remember the date so well because I was on a retreat. It was the second day there, and I had gotten up at 7 or 7:30 in the morning to take the yoga session. The instructor was this charming little older lady who took us through some really wonderful gentle yoga. When I got home a couple of days later, I immediately was reminded of the yoga studio 100 or 200 yards from my house, down the street. I was able to begin a work exchange with the owner in which I volunteer a few hours a week and get to take as many classes as I’d like. Throughout the summer I averaged probably 5-6 classes per week. During the fall that number has dropped, but for me just the fact that I am still practicing with devotion, and doing my work hours there over six months later really means a lot to me, and yoga has improved my life in so many ways since then. I am very grateful.
  3. Entered recovery for my eating disorder. When I was leaving the apartment that I lived in last March, trying to figure out where to go next, I knew more than I ever had in my life before that my anorexia was becoming out of hand. I decided for myself that wherever I went next would have to be somewhere that I would be supported in my search for recovery. This ended up being my parents’ house. Although it hasn’t been perfect, my family has done a lot to help me in recovery. I also owe a lot to a twelve step program that really helped kick-start things in terms of physical, emotional, and spiritual recovery.
  4. Reconciled and rebuilt my relationship with my family. I left home at the age of 19, and did not return to parent’s house to live there again until I was nearly 22 years old. I was filled with anger, misunderstanding, and bitterness when I thought of my immediate family most times growing up. I understood that my eating disorder stemmed very much from these issues with them over the years. Thanks to my decision to get better, the twelve-step way of life, their willingness to work with me, and a whole lot of patience and prayer, we were able to come to much better terms and understanding of each other. This in turn really helped me with other interpersonal relationships in my life, and in seeing clearly things about my life and childhood I couldn’t interpret correctly before.
  5. Learned to recognize the Hanged Man.

In a tarot deck, the Hanged Man represents going as far down a path as possible, until admitting that a dead end has been reached, and alternative action is unavoidable. For me, there were many such occurrences of this phenomenon in this past year. The most significant one would have to be my decision to drop out of college for a second time. I tell people I dropped out of school twice, because I wasn’t sure the first time. This is partially true. Mostly, I was a lot better at following my heart this time around.

  1. Began facing my fears. There is a quote that I love, and I want to say it is by Hunter Thompson. It goes something like “If thinking about doing something makes your heart race, then you should probably do that”. I can’t really find out for sure because now that I am trying to search for it online, the only things that are coming up have to do with the medical field! There is another one that I love, and I know for sure it is by Ralph Waldo Emerson, which says “Do the thing you are most afraid to do”. This has become a motto of mine over the past year. To me, there is no better feeling than facing something I am completely terrified of. It forces the mind to accept and appreciate that life does go on after facing a scary scenario. The unknown is a big fear for most people, and facing the unknown is empowering. Each time I do something I am afraid of doing, the world opens up a bit more for me.
Failures*

(*which count as successes if I have learned from them!)

  1. Spreading myself too thin. This is something that is easy for me to do, as there are so many awesome things in the world that I want to do and take part in. It is a truly humbling experience to have to say, listen I can’t do that thing anymore, I have to bow out. It also takes courage to not feel guilty and like I am letting people down. I know that if I let myself down, by trying to shoulder too big of a burden, it will be much worse all around in the end.
  2. Pretending I am more extroverted than I am. I vacillate between wanting to spend more and less time around people. But at heart, I am a true introvert at least 80% of the time. I cherish my solitude, but at the same time I can have too much of a good thing and get depressed. I am like a Sim: I need the optimum amount of social interaction to keep my mood up, but too much and I’ll pee in place and start crying. This also has to go along with limiting the opportunities I take on. Saying yes to life is one thing, but saying yes to everyone else is another. When I was younger, I always thought it was a bad thing that I liked to be alone so much. I wanted to be cool, and popular, and fit it in with everyone. But I will never be that person, and recognizing my needs and having the courage to honor them is going to go a long way towards having less, but stronger, bonds with people.
  3. Thinking other people are going to read my mind. Another way to phrase this would be simply learning to ask for what I want. When I was in high school I learned how to be assertive in some ways. But low self-esteem and lack of self-worth caused me for a number of years to be simply too afraid to ask for what I wanted. I still have that fear that doing so is going to burden others with my needs, and I am a terrible person if I want too much, yada, yada, yada. However, it is true that people feel good when others ask them for something that they can give. It really is a joy to help another human being out, especially if what they want is big to them but a small thing for me to accomplish. All around me I have been getting these messages that I need to ask for what I want. I didn’t start taking that too seriously until now. And lo and behold, I’m getting upgrades to the executive suite, and free breakfast and stuff. And a big thing in relation to this is that if I am not getting what I want I am probably asking the wrong person. I feel like what happens sometimes is we just want to be in charge and feel like the buck stops here. I have been that person. But if you have a real problem with a company, the management is there to keep you as a customer by making you happy. A lot of people whose income does not depend on that will not try so hard. I am learning not to take the first person’s word for it, keep asking for what I want, and being happy about it.
It’s a New Year!

I could go on with all the things I learned this year, succeeded and failed at. But the point is to move on from here. I think I’ll probably make an updated list of all my goals for this year and whatnot. I don’t necessarily make resolutions, because they are way too much pressure.

I prefer to set tons of goals, some really high, and achieve what I can while still working towards the biggest accomplishments I want to have.

What are your thoughts on 2014? I’d love to hear them!

Christmas and the Changing Roles of Identity

Identity and Self

Well it’s Christmas, and I’m not even sure how I feel right now, really. I don’t entirely feel like myself anymore. Whether it is just assuming the role of family member again, or maybe all the processed food I’ve been eating, but as far as I am concerned I have been enjoying the anticipation of Christmas far more than the actual event.

Experiencing

To be sure, having lots of little cousins to celebrate the holidays with is very fun and brings me back to my childhood. But, at the same time, it is easy to see that they do not really understand the whole point of the Christmas thing, and that living vicariously through them is empty at best. I remember being that age, too. All I cared about was presents and (to an extent, but not as much the) food, dessert to be specific. That was all I wanted, and that is all they care about. By the time I am now old enough to appreciate the true meaning of Christmas, it seems to me to be so much more hollow than it ever was before.

I don’t mean to sound ungrateful. I am absolutely appreciative of the fact that not everyone gets to have a holiday with family. A lot of them cannot or do not have the family to celebrate with. It just occurs to me that the whole thing is rather forced, in a way. Like without the holiday, we wouldn’t all be getting together to exchange gifts, if it wasn’t what we were supposed to do.

Questioning

Then again, maybe I don’t truly understand what Christmas is about yet. When I was younger I did think it was about the birth of Jesus, but it turns out that Christmas existed before it was customary to celebrate his birthday on that day. It was based on a celebrating the changing of the seasons, and centered around Roman Mythology. After the winter solstice, it was customary to give gifts and honor the time when the shortest days of the year were over, and that winter was only uphill from there.

This is an interesting perspective, given that today the winter solstice is actually the very first day of what we call winter. Indeed, I consider winter to be comprised of the cold, dreary months of January through March, when snow makes its greatest appearance, and it is a task of endurance to keep focused on spring. The way I see Christmas, in a way, is one last big party before having to endure the long, cold months, which are still primarily denoted by early darkness each day.

This year, I just happen to have something to look forward to in March, so I do not anticipate the winter being too terrible for me. Generally speaking, though, winter is a very hard time for me, characterized by severe seasonal depression and spending too much time indoors. Every winter for as long as I can remember I have been plotting to get out of New England for the season. Every year I get closer, but each winter also becomes a little easier as I make it through more and more of them.

Perceiving

I think what I find challenging about Christmas is that it is a time where I end up sacrificing my self-identity in favor of the group-identity of my family. This is something that not everyone does, to be sure, and that I had not really recognized to myself until this year, as of this writing. It is well known that groupthink and individual thinking are two very different things. This affects not only society at large, schools, workplaces, as well as, very significantly, family dynamics.

Role responsibility can be easy to slip into, comfortable and safe. Humans yearn for identification, definition, and comparison. We want to know who we are, and what that means (identification and definition). But neither of those denote a thing without something else to compare it to. So I can know that I am a daughter, and that means I am responsible for x, y, and z. But without understanding what a mother or father’s role is, I really can’t convince myself that I know I am doing the job right.

As I said, identity among society is also important to our validations and feelings of self-worth about ourselves. How can we know we are worthy or right, if we are not fulfilling these roles that have been chosen for us, and that we have chosen as well? Take the holidays in everyday society. Our identities will evolve and change as we interact with different groups and individuals, in comparison to them. So if I am in a store, I am a customer and the woman behind the counter is a cashier. We each fulfill that role and then move on with our lives. I am not always a customer, but when I am interacting with an employee, I am one, and behave as such.

If I walked into a store, and began telling workers how to behave, I would be trying to assume the identity of employer. I have defined that role and took on its meaning, but without the expressed consent and cooperation of others around me (comparison, once more) my role will be invalidated and proven empty. I can no longer identify with the role of boss, and how I feel as a person will be unequivocally effected. This would be the same thing if I were to lose both of my parents tomorrow, and then try to continue in the role of daughter with other people who are not my parents. I would lose what I would believe to be part of myself, as people would no longer interact with me in that way. I would have to find a new way to define and compare myself to others. To find my place in the family, as it were.

I can also compare this to friendships, as well. If I am your friend, I will act as what I believe a friend would. The role of myself and personal identity will take a second place to the role of friend. The personal actions I take and words I say to a friend will always be interpreted in that context. And if I am no longer a friend to someone, I become an enemy, or a non-friend. Then everything I do will be taken in such a way.

There is no escaping this phenomena of identity as a precursor to everything I do, think, say, and seem, both to myself and others. I cannot separate myself from who I (and others) believe me to be. So when Christmas comes along, there is such a concentration of what we perceive to be identity, that things can become very confusing. Especially as relationships and roles change over the years. I began as daughter, granddaughter, niece, and child. But I have evolved into sister, cousin, young adult, role model, and adult. Someday I may become aunt, mother, grandmother, or elder. What I do and what I say each Christmas to come will first be effected by those labels, then by the personal spin I put on them.

Breaking it Down

Identity is neither a good nor bad thing inherently. It just is. And so is Christmas, neither good nor bad by itself, but rather shaped, colored, and perceived by the way we shape, color, and perceive our personal identities first. Generally, in everyday life our roles shift and evolve so seamlessly, so effortlessly, that we hardly even notice it. And throughout all the changing, we need to feel a core of truth: who we are as a person when no one else is around to identify with and react to.

But now and again, we notice our identity as we are acting on life. Usually when we sense some dissonance between what we think we should be and what we actually are. In any given day, I may find myself disagreeing with what it means to live out my role. Maybe a friend says something that makes me want to defend myself as a person, or a figure of authority seems to be in error in some way. A feeling of uncomfortability arises, and I must adapt to this change, in order to keep my feeling of identity as solid as possible, so that I may not waver from feeling as if I belong in my present role.

When too many of these dissonances occur, it can give rise to what we might call an identity crisis. We don’t know who we are because all the identities that we had assumed for so long covered up our “true” selves, and it is nowhere to be found. This is why being true to oneself is said to be crucial to happiness.

Acting on It

So, how do I feel now that I have gotten that all out? I feel closer to my own identity, or even lack thereof. Yes, my identity does include being a daughter, a woman, a sister, and a consumer. But it also includes being a writer, a hiker, an animal-lover, and a yogi. True identity is not one thing, but rather it is an expression of every possible role a human could have for themselves, shown in endless combinations by us all. But we must not forget what we are first and above all else: conscious. The fact that we are able to understand and think about identity is in itself a form of identity that is fundamental to what is means to have consciousness in this world.

We are unique to the extent that we take these various identities and assimilate and integrate them into ourselves, into who we truly perceive ourselves to be. If I just to try to identify myself in terms of my relationship with my family, or society, or even friends alone I will not be true to myself. But if I take all these different identities found within me and take them all together, all implied within each other, I find that I am not my identity, but rather the ability to have an identity and act according to it, and the choice of whether or not to do so.

If I am comprised of all identities possible, it also is logical that I am comprised of no identity at all. It is certainly something that I could think about and write on for as long as I live, and learn new things about the world I live in. But for now, recognizing the presence of needing and wanting identity within myself is enough for me to feel like what I refer to as myself again. In other words, Merry Christmas to you, to me, and everyone in between.

Live to Seek, Seek to Live

My Mind Amazes Me

A girl told me that you weren’t living if you weren’t spilling crumbs on the bed. She said so much to me in just one sentence. I found her declaration odd at first because I am always coming from a very perfectionist mode of thinking.

I am attracted to the macabre, the psychedelic, the strange, the mysterious, the mystical, the dark side of life. I don’t think perfect is attainable because the human mind cannot conceive of true perfection of life, but I do think it can get close. But the near perfect only exists within the contrast of the messy, the less than. But then everything becomes imperfection.

I seek to look at the world with wide eyes. If I happen to take the world a little too seriously, then so be it. If I want to write about the dark twists of humanity then aren’t I simply at a greater advantage of looking at the goodness in people as well? That’s why character driven shows are what people go crazy over. The only reason horror can exist and be written about is that such goodness exists to compare it by.

I can somehow dance into a room full of people sitting down watching and applauding me. I can only be more outgoing because I was shy. I can only be going to yoga regularly if there was a time I was not. Those comparisons mean nothing to somebody else, but everything to me.

So what does this have to do with spilling crumbs on the bed? Oh yeah. So if I know that I take life entirely too seriously and I acknowledge, embrace, and love that about myself and let it go then I wont have to be too serious about the fact that I’m too serious.. If you know what I mean.

I know affirmations and the law of attraction are really wonderful and a lot of people use them with great success, but sometimes I just don’t want to lie to myself. If I don’t feel magical and sparkling and cheerful then I’m not about to try to brainwash myself into anything. At the same time I know I can feel better sometimes if I just tell myself that I do. But no matter what, my depression is a part of me, and I’m not ready to get rid of it entirely.

The future is always subject to change. String theory must be about different universes on each string, because they overlap so, especially within dreams. I love dreaming though, and exploring the worlds in my soul. And it could be like a harp playing or something. The end result is the different vibration. Maybe I’m living in G and I dream about B flat.

Does anyone get what I’m talking about?

My Experience with Seasonal Affective Disorder

Winter SAD

Does having a cute acronym appropriately referred to as SAD make Seasonal Affective Disorder any easier to bear? Not for me.

I have lived my whole life in New England, and have experienced the four seasons each about 22 times now. I wish I could say I enjoyed them all. It seems to my that I only enjoy the time of year when everything is a riot of gorgeous green, warmth is in the air, and the days are long with sunlight. This is about five months out of the year, I believe.

According to the Mayo Clinic, SAD is caused by a lack of sunlight. This makes sense to me, because I tried using light therapy last winter and I noticed an improvement in my depression here and there while I tried it. But I also know that less time outdoors, loss of greenery and foliage, and the coldness all contribute to my SAD.

The fact that Daylight Savings Time (DST) ends in the fall makes it perhaps the official kickoff of my seasonal depression. All of a sudden it is getting dark at 5:00 PM instead of 6:00 PM. The sun rises and sets gradually to earlier and later times by itself for a reason. I think Mother Nature had this all figured out before we started messing with it.

Unfortunately for me, I am completely predisposed to having this disorder. When DST ends and we lose an hour of sleep on top of all the other causes of SAD I listed, my overall mood goes downhill, fast.

As soon as it gets dark out, I want to be inside, curled up watching Mad Men or reading a good book. But, of course, the world around me doesn’t evolve to suit my needs. The yoga classes I go to still start after dark, likewise with any 12-step program meetings I attend for my eating disorder. I do one these activities every night and the other every morning when I am in a good place. But now? It is a monumental effort.

Oversleeping is actually listed as a symptom of SAD, which I find quite relieving. For as long as I can remember, I have had problems oversleeping and waking up on time. The oversleeping problems have ebbed and flowed in the same pattern my depression has over the years. But people who don’t have problems waking up don’t really understand that it truly isn’t something that can be helped sometimes.

In the winter, it is much easier for me to want to stay awake way too late because of all the indoors at night time. Studies show that more screen time keeps the brain more active and harder to shut down at night. But as a writer, ample amounts of screen time are just a part of what I do. I notice how it affects my ability to sleep, though.

On the flip side, I can take sleep medication, but I find that it makes me groggy a lot of the time for the next day, and it makes me much more likely to oversleep to begin with. Still, just having this problem recognized as a symptom of something, rather than some defect in myself, feels really good.

What can I do about my SAD? Well, as I mentioned before, the light therapy does help in some ways. I sold my light therapy device last year, though, so I may have to buy a new one, or find a really good website/app for my computer that would do the job.

One thing that helps is just trying to get outside as much as I can. During the winter, I think it can be lovely outside, as long as I dress warm and keep moving. Last year, I lived on a small tributary off a large river and, when it froze over in the winter, I would simply walk across it to the other side. Much of it was wetlands, so I could explore things I never would able to in the summer.

And even if I can get outside, I definitely do still need to stress Vitamin D in my body. Either through my diet or supplements, I need that extra boost. And it goes without saying that I keep taking my antidepressants on time and consistently. (A couple years ago I decided to stop taking my medication one fall. I lasted about four months and it was genuinely one of the worst experiences I’ve had in a long time.)

I also have to just force myself out of the house after dark. I need the recovery from my eating disorder that comes with my 12-step program, and I definitely need all the mind and body benefits that yoga offers me. Without these, my SAD can spiral out of control, with me along for the ride.

The last coping method I am using to get through this tough time is having something to look forward to in the spring. Because I am choosing to go all out in the spring, I won’t be able to travel someplace warm and tropical for the winter. So it is a trade-off, but we’ll see what happens. In the next year or two, I definitely want to begin relocating during these tough months to a location that is better for my mind.

Winter and fall are awesome, because they are a part of life and nature. But for me they represent an increased time of challenge to my health. If you suffer from SAD, I definitely would love to hear about your experience with it. This is something that I think a lot of people don’t talk much about besides the “winter blues”. If you have any light to shed, let me know.

The Road to Recovery

I think the road to recovering from my eating disorder of anorexia can be compared to any universal path in life. I have a writer’s mind, so I see things very much as metaphors and patterns and everything relating from one whole. I’m going to use an adventure story for an example. In the beginning of a quest, the main character (me) has been walking down a road of their own making, unaware that there is another road to take, ignorant and naive thus far.
Then, the problem is introduced. Something must now change because things aren’t going so well. The protagonist is instructed where to go and what to do to solve the problem. At first this new road looks quite daunting, but the newness and novelty of it speaks of adventure, learning, growth and hope.

The path is a long one, in fact it is never ending, but the hero doesn’t know that at first. She suspects that the goal will be achieved and she can go back to the road of her own making. But she will learn that won’t happen. This road will change her and she will not be able to go back.

Sometimes the path is treacherous, sometimes boring, other times so enjoyable that she will wonder how life could have ever looked hard. At times the path will be drenched in pouring rain, hot as a jungle in July, or much too dark to see where it is leading. Characters will walk the path with her at times, all sorts of people will be met and those she knew before may come along for the ride too.

But eventually she will realize that others may walk the path with her, but no one can walk the path for her. But there is one that will always be on the path with her, even when she is collapsed on the side of the path, certain she can never go on. When the fabled single set of footprints makes its appearance.

The road to recovery is like that. Always the same path but different at every turn. Steep slopes and gorgeous views, dips and valleys into the land of humility, and life-saving fellowship along the way. Taken one day at a time with eyes and heart wide open, the young heroine will never walk the same section of the path twice.

Well, that was fun. Now back to real life…

I Am Not a Good Blogger

Perfect is the enemy of good, and good actions always beat perfect plans that have no action.
-Tucker Max

Yes, I really am not very good at running a blog, I must share that with you all.

When I began this blog in December (I think) of last year I approached it the same way I would anything else. Either I am the best or I don’t do this at all.

It is amazing how much of a perfectionist and nitpicker part of my brain can be. So when I don’t post regularly, which is usually, I find myself thinking I don’t deserve to have a blog or call myself a blogger.

It would be easy to simply drop out of the blogosphere. I mean, really, who would miss me? I get out of the blogging community what I put into it, and frankly I haven’t done much in a few months.

I did some Blogging U challenges and I found that they were a very effective way to gain an audience and be inspired and challenged to up my blog game. I even went from an all time high of 63 views per day to 215 in less than a week after starting Blogging 101!

But blogging challenges are, well, challenging and they require discipline and focus to succeed. I unfortunately am lacking in both areas.

But I keep coming back. Even when I don’t post often, when the only comments I get on my blog are from robots and spammers, I still come back to WordPress and think about it often.

Basically, I can choose two different ways of seeing my blog. I can beat myself up because I am no longer, in my terms, succeeding at being a blogger, that I’m not very good at it.

OR, I can look at what I have accomplished this far. I have kept this blog up and (semi) running for at least 10-11 months so far. Not bad for a first attempt. I have published definitely over 50 posts, answered over 100 legitimate comments, and gotten over 100 followers. It wouldn’t be fair to me or you, if you’re out there, to discount these accomplishments.

I’ve even been nominated for awards, and I participated in one as well. So what if I begin Blogging U challenges that I don’t finish? Who cares if I don’t post for weeks or months? The only one who has the ability to make me feel bad about myself is me, and today I choose not to put myself down, but to lift myself up.

So maybe I’m not a Good Blogger, but I am a blogger doing the best I can, and that’s all that matters to me. Thank you for reading. It means more than I could say.

Creativity and Self-Awareness Part Two

Well written books and scripts can allow us to go to the limits of imagination and sympathize with almost any type of person. Pieces such as Lolita, Dexter, and Silence of the Lambs all challenge the boundaries of normal societal thinking to take our mindset to much different territory.

When we endeavor to analyze the message of a complex film or movie, it is necessary and essential to compare it the events in our past and understanding of people as we know them. Sometimes we find that our current beliefs agree or disagree strongly with an idea that is being posed by the creator. They have literally forced us to think about ourselves with their art, and thus we are, for a time, self-aware.

Consuming this type of media can also be a way to escape self-awareness for a while, although the former process becomes much more subtle and sometimes subconscious if this is the case. It still occurs, though, because when one creates art they are transferring their self-awareness to the subject. The energy is there forever.

It is quite challenging to create that type of art without placing an enormous mirror in front of your face, per se, and then giving your reflection to an instrument, or paper or canvas or whatever is it you do. The ones who are able to most accurately recreate an objective illustration of life are those whose creations people find themselves the most drawn to.

It stands to reason, then, that an honest self-awareness is key to really getting that down, because we all have one thing in common. This is true of every person on this planet, the fact that we all are here and are experiencing this life, whatever it may mean, together.

No religion can dispute that fact, and they are all really primary a means of interacting with and coping with this aspect of life. We know that we live and we can’t argue that our bodies don’t die here. But the eternal question remains at the root of the problem: What are we really, where did we come from, and where do we go after we are done?

You may think that attending a religious ceremony and, say, going to see a viewing from the Saw movie franchise don’t really have much in common, but I see them both as absolute manifestations of our need to understand our self-awareness.

We have somehow come to live in a world that encourages lack of free thinking and not enough cultivation of being aware of our very existence. More and more students are beginning to realize that staying in school to obtain a job working for someone else’ dream to succeed is an insult to their intelligence in every way. Because they are becoming more aware of their own being and sense of worth.

Creativity and Self-Awareness (Part One)

creativity

I like to write philosophy, sometimes, and when I do I can write pages and pages. I am going to experiment here with posting one of these entries into a few separate parts on my blog. I am not sure if it would be better to condense into one post or do it this way. So this will be just to try it out, and hopefully you get something out of this first part. =) -Liz

The more self-aware one is, the more appreciation can be had for experiences in everyday life. But for those of us who are more distracted there are music, film, and sports, among others, to remind us all that we have this in common. We pay so much for this self-awareness, and spend very little time cultivating it ourselves.

Making movies is for the talented and wealthy, some might say, but the beauty of it is that is not even close to the truth. It just so happens that film belongs to an industry where a fine understanding of humanity and the world is required to excel.

This is not unique to creative pursuits, however. Although creative thinking is beneficial in many ways, what I am talking about is what you may refer to as mindfulness. Being in the moment and aware of our lives. It is too common for people to think that they would be happy if they had something else or if things were different.

But the truth is that no matter what we have or how many events we can attend or places to go, if we are not ever fully experiencing what the present moment has to offer then all of that is a waste.

Conversely, sometimes we do not just struggle for the luxuries in life, but we also go through periods of not having much beyond our own selves. This ranges from those of us just trying to making ends meet to the un-contacted tribes of the Amazon or, more extremely, those in the situation of complete and total isolation. I know I am not wrong to say that some of us would lose our sanity after an extended period.

Most tend to ignore the larger picture at work around them and anchor to other individuals, possessions, or other forms of wealth or attainment. According to Maslow’s pyramid, self-realization cannot be achieved until one has all of those things. But I would like to argue that it can be achieved much sooner than that.

Checking In

me and bird

Oh, it’s been WAY too long since I have posted on here! I’m such a slacker sometimes 😛

I am doing well, all things considered. I’ve had a very, very busy summer to tell you the truth. 

I’ve been doing yoga as much as I can, babysitting for the instructor and volunteering in exchange for my classes.

I have been working on a book with my grandmother. She is a black belt in hypnosis and teaches people how to lose weight and live a healthy lifestyle, so I have been working on a workbook she is putting together for her clients with recipes, daily reflections, and a guide to follow her program.

It’s been hard work, that’s for sure, but I’m being paid to WRITE and my name will be on the cover as an editor!!! I’m so psyched I can’t even tell you!

I’ve also been hard at work in my recovery from my eating disorder. You may think a weight loss book could be triggering, and you would be right. But I have an amazing program of recovery and a group of people just like me I can lean on when things get tough. I have been eating three times a day for nearly three months now!

I’m working on the second draft of a short story I am writing. It is full of intrigue and murder and when I’m done I’ll give you all a teaser of it! I’m hoping to enter it into contests to maybe get published and win some money at the same time 😉 so the whole thing won’t be on here, sorrrrry.

I am redoing my walk in closet in my bedroom and I’m going to turn it into a study/writing room/studio, which I can’t wait to see the end result of.

I am also making plans at the moment to try to do some traveling during the winter. New England winters get me hella depressed and I NEED to be somewhere where things are green for at least a month or two! I’m thinking the WWOOF program might be what I’ll do. 

I mean, it’s not like I’ve cashed in on my fancy one year membership I bought last March yet. But I’m in a much better place than I was in back then, so I feel confident I can do it this time, I hope.

I also have been considering my love life. Or, well, considering HAVING one! There’s a guy that I’ve been involved with for nearly SEVEN years now, seven like what? that’s just about a third of my entire life, which is so crazy.

He’s one of my best friends, part time lover and full time friend, for all you Juno fans out there, and we keep missing each other when one of us has feelings for the other.

There are things I want to say to him that I’ve been holding onto for a while now. It’s so crazy that he can still make me tongue-tied, even now! He’s recently available and I’m torn between being courageous and trying to sweep him off his feet, and being timid and keeping my mouth shut like I have been for a long time, afraid to scare him off.

But the thing is, I think, it is much worse to regret NOT having done a thing, than regretting doing it. Because then at least you know the outcome, instead of always wondering. And I know I’m in a good place. I will be his friend no matter what happens between us, that is a promise to myself.

Not to mention we have been involved this long and we’ve only ever fought once. I mean, where else am I gonna find that? And it’s not that I want to be tied down, or settle, or any of those other awkward ways to phrase it. He is very independent and so am I. But maybe I just want to call dibs on him before anyone else gets him first. Who knows?? Certainly not I. Women’s brains are just crazy.

Do men over think this much? I’d love to know if it’s just us ladies. Any advice is welcome!! 🙂

Well, my dog is outside my door whining, so I better let her in. Ciao, bellas.