Lessons I Teach Myself
So you've gone through seven months of stressful Covid days and your stress level has reached a ridiculous high as the U.S is a week away from the brutally intense 2020 elections, and you figure now is as good a time as it will ever be to try this thing called 'meditation' and try to relax your mind, if that is at all possible...
Or maybe you are one of those people who have always wanted to meditate, but life and time and excuses and excuses and even more excuses came in the way... and finally you've emptied your bucket of excuses. It's 2020 after all. If you are a covid patient, health care professional, or have to home school your kids - then you have all the legit reasons in the world not to meditate, though you would likely find it even more helpful then...
Or maybe you are that guy, or that gal - always into the trends, and have heard that 'everybody else is doing it' and you got no will power to NOT cave to peer pressure. Besides, you are already living by the beach and doing yoga so meditation is a natural step to being a total cliche, no?
Or perhaps your doctor recommended it. Or your therapist insisted. Or you read about the benefits in a science guide. (yes, really, actual scientists meditate!) Or your spouse wants to make it a couple thing so you better dip your toes in it first.
Whatever the reason may be.... You are here. You wanna start mediating.
And maybe you've already tried the Headspace app everybody is talkin' about. And bought yourself a meditation pillow, 'cause it was on sale. Maybe you even paid a steep price to have your own personalized mantra to meditate with a la Transcendental Meditation (hiya David Lynch!). Or maybe you are a total newbie and this is the very first step you are making on your journey into meditation.
Don't get me wrong here, I may welcome you newbies to the meditation journey... but only as a peer.
I myself am also a beginner meditator. I'm not skilled or 'good at it' AT ALL. But after being on & off for years dabbling into meditation and relaxation exercises, 2020 is the first year I've been able to have a consistent daily meditation practice. So as a PEER (and no where near a teacher or guide to this life-long practice) I got some tips to share that have been incredibly helpful to me, and maybe will be helpful to you as well:
1. Do yoga/work out first.
This isn't a must, but it's highly recommended. If you do a daily yoga practice - your body will likely be in a relaxed state that would be ideal for mediation afterwords. If you do a more rigorous work-out - come down from the adrenaline rush with some stretches, and then shift into the mediation practice. The great thing in aligning the two together is that your body is already primed, and the mind is already focused so it may be easier to gently quiet it after a workout. This works like a charm for me. When I mediate without being in my body first - my mind will jump around with thoughts, making my meditation practice a whole lot LESS relaxing...
2. Put some meditation music on.
Spotify is amazing for this. I usually have a 'massage music' playlist on, or a 'stress relief' playlist on in the background through Spotify and it helps me dive deeper into my meditation and quiet my mind. If I find myself drifting in thought during mediation - listening to music or sounds, as well as focusing on my breathing, are great tools to sift back into the observer's voice, the inner voice, the awareness that meditation can lead us to.
3. Get comfy.
Need a pillow? Need a wall to lean on? Need to sit on a chair? ALL ARE GOOD. There are no rules to this. Especially not in the beginning. So get comfy! I usually sit cross-legged on on my yoga mat. Sometimes I lean on a wall for more support for my back, and when I am extra tired - I will even lie down for a lying down meditation. But fyi that way tends to be even more challenging because it's easier to fall asleep when the body is fully resting...
4. Set up a timer.
My sister suggested this and I think it's an awesome tool. At first, I would meditate as long as I 'wanted to' , which veered between five minutes to thirty minutes, but the consistency of using a set timer helped me track the ease and the difficulty, and when exactly those sensations arise for me. I also noticed when exactly my legs fall asleep during my meditation practice - which is approximately when I am 12 minutes in it.
Find a sweet spot of minutes to start from - maybe fifteen minutes to start, or ten, or twenty... try that for a week, and then add a minute or two every week that goes by. Before you know it - you'd be able to mediate for longer and longer. Don't have much time? Set up your timer to five minutes. Better than skipping a day. You always have five minutes, right?
Close your eyes and breathe. You may breathe normally, or take deep breaths through the nose and out the mouth, or even take short pauses in between your inhales and exhales. No right and wrong about it, just breathe and follow the breath. Some days it will lead you to track your body - is there a tension in your body you'd like to 'send' a breath to? Simply inhale towards that tension. You can start by breathing and focusing on a different body part until you'll feel the body is relaxed and ready. Anytime thoughts arise - notice them, and go back to your breath. I think of my breathing as an anchor to my meditation practice.
6. Track your thoughts GENTLY.
When a thought arises, before shooing it away - track it in your mind: is it a planning thought? Is it a creative thought? Is it a reenactment thought? Is it a to-do list thought? Is it a random thought? Is it a visual thought? 'tag' it, or track it, or make a note of it, and then let it go. This is a tip from my sister as well (thank you sis!), that I really like because it adds specific tasks to the study of the mind that naturally occurs during mediation. Only thing I found that is important to me is to be extra gentle about it... otherwise I find myself 'thinking about my thinking' way too much, and it kinda defeats the purpose of quieting the mind... don't you think?
If you don't use a mantra throughout your mediation to focus on, you may want to finish your meditation with a moment of acknowledgment. An inner message to yourself. I usually sigh to myself once the timer goes off, gently open my eyes, smile to myself and send a message of acknowledgment that "I am here. I am alive. I am grateful. I made it to my practice although I didn't want to. I did it!" Or something along those lines...Whatever I want to say as a subtle message to myself - I do. Sometimes I'll do it while I gently shake my body from the static pose it was in, or while I take a large glass of water immediately after and before going along with my day. The point is to acknowledge and make a precious moment from the moment AFTER the meditation.
There ya go, those are my seven tips for the beginning meditator.
And maybe if I ever graduate 'beginner mode' and sift into 'intermediate meditator' I'll share some more.
If you have any tips to add please write them in the comments!
I've been very much into celebrating my birthday since as long as I can remember.
It's my family tradition to celebrate the morning of a birthday together, huddled around a breakfast table with gifts and a festive breakfast. I've tortured a few boyfriends with my miserable sour face when my birthday expectations were unfulfilled, and I have also considered some birthdays the absolute best days of my life. I've marked down round dates for different occasions, put symbolic attention into milestones in my life and I have even quit a job simply because it hit a five year mark. So birthdays and milestones have been a part of my life for some time now... and today is no different.
Today is my baby blog's HALF BIRTHDAY.
I have written in this blog every day for the last six months!
Sometimes I spend five minutes on it, and some days I spend hours, but every day I manage to write something here. Some of it is writing I am very proud of, and other posts are anything but, but overall my goal of taking-down my perfectionism is being reached every single day through this random endeavor I started back in the 26th of April. And the daily consistency has made my writing, and my relationship to my writing a whole lot healthier and enjoyable.
I must celebrate in some way.
Why? Because this is fu**ing hard people!!!?!! Maintaining, caring, and giving a sh*t about a daily blog takes every ounce of my capacity to feel and to express. And this intense year has sometimes made me not want to feel a goddamn thing. The horrors of the news and global terror have made me want to escape my mind and my heart and be in complete disassociation more than once. But while it sounds fun - writing in the state of disassociation doesn't amount to much, if anything at all.
So, following Nike in true fashion - I just did it.
Every day that was easy, and in the days that it was simply NOT.
I sat in the discomfort of confronting myself long enough for something creative to grow on the page. Or on my Macbook air's screen, to be more accurate... I let my imagination go and my heart expand. And I can now congratulate myself for the willingness and the consistency.
In fact, I will do more then just congratulate myself. I will bake a cake! I will make a wish! I will share the news! I will celebrate with a glass of wine! I will celebrate my win because unlike a birthday - that I had absolutely nothing to do with but being BORN - this (half) birthday is all about celebrating an actual action I took, and endeavor I followed through with, and six months worth of fears that I faced.
So let me just say...: A VERY HAPPY HALF BIRTHDAY TO YOU, DEAR BLOG!
For me and many many many others, counting down the days until the 2020 elections started the day after Donald Trump was elected back in November 8th, 2016. We started facebook groups, marched for democracy and equality and began educating ourselves and others about the danger of an authoritarian tyrant taking over the white house. For women, immigrants, people of color and frankly any truly honest patriot to this country - Donald J. Trump's presidency has been a slap in the face. And it HURT. And it still hurts to hear his lies and deliberate call for violence over the last four years.
For us New Yorkers (and though I live in Los Angeles now I consider myself partly a New Yorker forever and ever) Trump has been a laughing stock and a hateful figure for YEARS. His shady real estate deals, notorious racism against the Central Park Five and Obama, and womanizing scandals - have been part of the fabric of the city, an unwanted part, for a very long time. And just as if a 'The Simpsons' episode came to life - the shady character that was hated in New York - exploded onto the world without a shred of shame or integrity. New Yorkers may have hated the guy first, but he sure has many more haters now. But in an epic unfortunate proportions - he also has gained many more new supporters.
It's easy (and tempting) to disregard his supporters by saying 'they're all misguided', 'they're just following a cult leader', 'What a bunch of conspiracy nut cases!', 'Racists like him' etc. But I doubt minimizing and name-calling would help to flatten the curve of hate in this country. It's been built for a loooooooong time. This country has been practically built on a violent take-down of the native inhabitants, racism and classism with slavery and then segregation, and continuous systematic racism and sexism as a result.
Education and restoration is a long process, and like with sickness - it can take a long time to acknowledge there is a problem, before beginning to heal it. Trump has opened a wound. A deep wound. But it's not a new one. It's a been buried and poked at for years. It's time to begin the healing, and yes - sometimes the healing process can BURN.
There are NINE days until the election's deadline.
With more than 225,000 deaths from Covid, vote like your life or your loved ones' lives depend on it, BECAUSE IT DOES.
And DUH - when I say VOTE, I mean VOTE FOR JOE BIDEN & KAMALA HARRIS.
Have you held a baby recently? A new born or a human in their, say, first year of life? Before they walk and talk and join the herd like the rest of us? Before they develop an identity, a personality, a character? Before they open their mouths to introduce themselves or wave at you with a smile?
I'm talking about when they still melt in your arms and are at the mercy of you holding them. Have you?
If you have not, because of Covid - that's totally understandable. But maybe still, you remember the feeling. The distinct feeling of holding a baby, a person in the start of their life, and the feeling of their essence, their energy, their vibe, or whatever you'd like to call it - coming through.
The thing about essence, is it's that magical feel none of us can put into words, but we feel instantly coming off of a person. When they are grown up - our minds come in to play with our impressions, judgments, misconceptions, projections or whatever - which ultimately put a vail in front of the simple essence of a person. A curtain. A cover up. But with a baby - we take off our guarding mind, and instantly let the essence in.
Truth is - ESSENCE is always there. When we are born, and later in life, right up to our death beds. But we don't see it or feel it all the time. We cannot hide our own essence, but we can shield our eyes from seeing other people's essence.
It's up to US to see essence. It's up to US to open our eyes and see. It's up to us to receive with open heart just as we would when encountering a baby. Gosh won't our world would look different then?!?
And if we look at a person, really look at them, and name the essence coming through, won't that be a relief to the judging mind, the comparing mind, the separating mind?
My post of the day turned into a mantra I suppose:
'Look at a person with the same receptivity and curiosity, as when you'd be looking at a baby.'
Today in my fave The Class workout session with the always-kicking-my-ass-and-insightful-while-at-it Natalie Kuhn, I heard a quote that took an enormous weight off of my shoulders:
"EVERYTHING WILL BE OKAY,
WHEN YOU ARE OKAY WITH EVERYTHING." ~Michael Singer
I had to repeat this mantra in my head a few times to fully take it in. Everything will be okay, when you are okay with everything. Everything will be okay, when you are okay with everything. Everything will be okay, when you are okay with everything.
Why is it that simple things hold in them the most depth? To be okay with everything is the way to have everything be okay. Well.. DUH. But aside from the clear duh factor, it also reminds me of the buddhist belief that the root of all suffering is desire. Being Zen, is about being with what is or - loving what is, as Byron Katie calls it.
It is a practice. A daily one. One that gets more and more OKAY with every practice...
I think of words often. What they mean. Why they mean what they mean. How easily we disregard their meaning. How recklessly we use them. And how we lose each other in communication when we don't know what words really mean. So the word that comes to mind today, is one I am particularly fond of:
* - The combination of simultaneous musical notes in a chord.
- The structure of music with respect to the composition and progression of chords.
- The science of the structure, relation, and progression of chords.
* - Pleasing arrangement of parts: Congruence.
- Agreement, Accord.
- Internal calm: Tranquility.
* - An interweaving of different accounts into a single narrative.
- A systematic arrangement of parallel literary passages (as of the Gospels) for the purpose of showing agreement or harmony.
Why do I love this word? Well, first because it has multiple meanings, and I am a multi tasker and a fan of efficiency. Second because it relates to music which is a language beyond words. Third because it is a state that is incredibly fleeting and yet so precious, that I want to invite more and more to my life. To be in the beautiful state of harmony with myself, with others, as I move through my life, in a state of tranquility, interweaving the musical notes of my life and make its authentic melody. Not sure how to to say it, but Harmony sums it up pretty darn well.
LAX is quiet than I had ever seen it. It's nice, peaceful. The long hallways feel endless but this time I don't mind it so much. I don't rush like I normally do. There's nothing to rush for, it seems.
I don't get lost on my way to immigration control, it's like my feet are leading me to the next destination, they know where to go. They had been here before. While I? I am still somewhere up in the sky in between countries, floating in airplane mode, between time zones, enjoying being in between worlds.
The immigration officer asks me to take off my hat and mask, well - my TWO masks, as she pushes a button to snap a picture. A picture that would soon be added to the worst collection of headshots the world has ever seen. Mug shots are better than these pictures, probably. Definitely.
STAMP! I get a stamp in my passport and continue on my way. No questions about my whereabouts in the last fourteen days, no questioning me if I have any symptoms. No one checks my temperature. The US couldn't care less if one would have Covid and enter the states. It's almost as if she - the USA - is self aware after all.
One last socially distanced stressful ride at the airport shuttle, and we are off to an Uber. Our driver is wearing gloves along with his mask. That's pretty cool. I am thinking how different this is from Sayulita. No one would even THINK of wearing gloves. The mask is a stretch there as it is.
The streets of Venice are empty as our Uber driver, John, drives us through. We both notice the stark difference between the sleepy somber yet peaceful reality in Los Angeles during this era, and the vivacious lively vibe in Sayulita's city center.
We arrive. It's cozy. The cats greet us 'Hello' almost immediately. We move on to work almost immediately, but taking in sighs of relief to be where we are now, the last stop on our journey away from home - HOME.
Hope turns to see if the Burner is still on the cabin, he IS. He TAPS on his brain as if to remind her he is merely a figment of her imagination.
HOPE: Let's keep going. There's nothing here anyways.
The two turn back to the road and continue their walking/skating.
HOPE: I've been sort of a... a bitch to you. I'm sorry.
MICKEY: What? No, you haven't.
HOPE: Yes I totally have.
HOPE: YES I have and you don't deserve that. It's not fair that I am taking my shit on you. Being angry and stuff. I mean you've been really nice to me, and sweet. Except when you mansplained to me about your alcohol addiction. But even then, obviously it's a sore subject and I didn't have to be so pushy about it. I'm really sorry. I'm not a bad person. Maybe I am. I don't know. But I don't want to be. Honest to God.
HOPE: What hmmm?
HOPE: "Okay?" What is it... you don't accept my apology?
MICKEY: Oh I accept it. Sure I accept it. I'll accept any apology from anyone even when it's absolutely not necessary. Thing is... I don't believe you. I want to believe you. I do. But you said 'honest to God.'
HOPE: Oh, come on. It's a... figure of speech.
MICKEY: For people that believe in God. Yes.
HOPE: Well maybe I do. Maybe I don't. I don't know. Why does it matter?
MICKEY: You don't know much about addiction, do you? I mean no disrespect.
HOPE: I know some. Not like you.
MICKEY: Okay. Well... the third step in the twelve step program is faith. It's an important step in recovery. Because to make the necessary actions to change, we must first BELIEVE that we can change. And a belief, any belief, isn't seen or proved, it's only felt. Through the process of faith. Like, we don't know if we'll make it to the gas station before we die of dehydration, but we believe we will. That's what keeps us going.
HOPE: You really are a son of a preacher-man.
MICKEY: Guilty as charged.
HOPE: I bet he'd like that. That was... moving. I am almost convinced.
HOPE: Leaving room for doubt. It's there to protect us also, no? I mean, otherwise we'd still be back there, with our blind faith, hoping someone will come to our rescue.
MICKEY: God shows us the way, but we must walk through it.
HOPE: How convenient. For God, I mean.
MICKEY: Are you flirting with me? Or with God? I'm genuinely not sure.
HOPE: Me neither.
To be continued...
Every city has its rhythm. Its pace. Its musical beat.
Sayulita is no different.
One would think that being a small beach town tucked behind a jungle an hour north of Puerto Vallarta, and is humid and ridiculously hot and tropical year around - would be a chill sleepy relaxed beach town. But no - this is a PARTY town. People walk here almost as fast as New Yorkers do. Granted - they may be walking barefoot and sporting an amount of sweat a swimmer can do laps in, but their pace still is anything but 'chill.'
The town's center, aka the 'Plaza' is no more than five or six short blocks but is bustling with lively shops, restaurants, busy bars, food stands and amount of locals and tourists that looks more like 2019 than the global-pandemic-year of 2020...
I came here to escape the stress of the United States as the political elections are coming up.
Thought I'd be virtually working from home, doing the same thing I'd be doing in LA more or less, but with the occasional walks to the beach and a taste of Mexican take-out or outdoor dining, but instead - I've been constantly looking for a way out of this town, anxiously feeling the stress of the crowds, the absence of masks, and the general sense of drunken wildness and pandemic-denial in this place.
I realize now that what I've been looking for here - is peace and quiet. And it's been rather challenging to find in the wild party town of Sayulita, Mexico.
Ironically - peace and quiet is what I've found back home over the last seven months. Sure - the news of the political disastrous climate, the economic collapse, and the deadly virus news are horrific and stressful to bare, but all I need to do is unplug for a bit, meditate, go INWARD, and get all the peace and quiet I need to recharge. Back home, through meditation and my daily rituals - peace and quiet is rather easily found.
It is always unexpected the gifts one get through travel...especially with a spontaneous travel to another country during a global pandemic.
This journey to AWAY that I was yearning for so much - actually showed me the value of HOME.
I am a light drinker, a 'cheap date.'
Despite my red hair - I got no speck of Irish bone in me.
When I have a drink or two, I lose my words quickly and my brain regresses to pretty much being non-existent.
So it is a pleasant surprise when my words jumble up into a life lesson of sorts. And that's what happened today...: I don't recall the exact context, and I won't bore you with the pointless details of it, but I meant to say something along the lines of - 'It's night and day.' Or - 'it's life or death.' Or...it's 'light or dark.'
But what came out was:
It's LIGHT AND DAY.
Who knows what my drunken self meant at that moment. But what I see now looking back at it - is that we like to live in binary terms: in a mindset of 'this or that', 'black and white', 'night and day', 'life or death...'
This year I have been learning about the vast ocean in between the two ends. That's where life mostly is, anyways. And how refreshing it is to break away from that binary mindset, even for a mere moment, in a silly drunken moment that seem to have forgotten any notion of 'night' or 'dark' altogether.
The night will arrive, and yes, it will be dark. but for now, I'll enjoy the day. I'll enjoy the LIGHT. Cheers!
Tamar Pelzig pledged to write something every day, even if it's only a word, so she welcomed to the world a daily blog that may, or may not be, of any significance to anyone other than herself. If you found her lil' life lessons, stories, poems and blurbs meaningful to you, well that's f**ing amazing! Comment and share so she can pat herself in the back - she doesn't do that nearly enough. Cheers.