Stumbling Grudgingly Into Quiet

Today I’m thankful to be learning basic meditation.

I am keenly aware of stress.  If I let it get a foothold I flare and end up back at the rheumatologist, painfully swollen and only able to function at a basic level.  The last several weeks have been eventful.  In response I manifested several clear physical signs of a flare, though for once they’ve moved slowly.  I felt like my body was warning me what would follow if I didn’t regain control.  I decided to use the grace period.  I’ve been adjusting my daily routine and learning meditation basics.  Please know I’m not proselytising for any cause.  I use this platform to express gratitude in my own somewhat cantankerous way.   These particular changes have helped me.  Live your life as you see fit.

For as long as I can remember I’ve thought “I really should learn to meditate”.  I read Maura O’Halloran’s account of her time training to be a Zen Buddhist monk in Japan.  I found it engrossing, but I’ve never really mastered the feeling of emptiness.  I have an unruly mind.  It’s an asset for my work, but it also means that I notice every itch and feel the need to rein in my thoughts from their continual wanderings.  It’s the antithesis of a meditating brain.

I’m generally wary of alternative therapies.  I am willing to try those with a documented body of evidence in their favor.  Meditation, especially for stress management in autoimmune inflammatory diseases, is one such practice.  The pivot for me was accepting that I can’t expect to start with sitting quietly for 30 minutes in one go.  I am simply not wired for it.  I can, however, manage 3 to 5 minutes before bed, gradually increasing over time.  My runaway thoughts are not a liability.  I acknowledge them and return to the quiet.  I’m in my second week.  My hands are no longer swollen and the raised red spots on my skin have disappeared.  I don’t have an ultimate goal beyond trying to stay healthy, but this works for now.  I’ve used several apps to track my progress.  It helps me to quantify what I do.

Be kind to yourself, and your body.  You get one.  Finally, a well placed heating pad rarely goes awry.  (Blatantly sentimental picture below, because well, why not?)

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One Thing Leads To Another

Today I’m thankful for slight dissatisfaction.

I visited the older lady I help last week.  I think I’m going to call her “Julia” to avoid some of the usual linguistic wrangling I force on myself.  She didn’t need my help with any cleaning so we sat and talked for almost two hours.  She was fairly upbeat.  One of her sons is visiting this week and she is looking forward to seeing him.  She’s lived a full life, has an intriguing perspective, and is happy to help if she can.  I always learn something from her.

My experience is that every so often life can feel stale, and you evolve or flounder.  I’m generally satisfied with my life.  I enjoy my colleagues, my family is healthy and my ridiculous dog makes me laugh – especially when she snores.  My plants are still mostly alive.  All together, it’s a stable place to determine what might come next.  I asked “Julia” her thoughts.  The woman never says the expected.  As a result, I’m going to try completing some courses for a doctorate in forestry.

I say “try” because it depends on flexible I can be at work.  My employer offers very generous tuition reimbursement.  I don’t know that I want to pursue the actual doctoral degree (earning the post-grad degree I do have was a comically horrible experience that may one day earn its own post), but I’ve always been fascinated by the subject, I’m trying to live more consciously, and I’ve got the one life so I might as well try to pursue what I love.  Excelsior.

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