Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The River of Energy: How to Get Out of Anxiety's Fast Current or Depression's Deep Stagnation and Get Back into the Flow of your Life

So, this metaphor is totally cliche, but it works, and that's why I use it. I feel a bit like Forrest Gump saying this, but here goes:

Your energy is a River, like this River.

When it's flowing smoothly and moving along, that's when we feel energized, grounded, strong, and happy. But when we get going too fast, doing too much, our minds and bodies spin out of control, floating too high towards the surface of the river and we experience anxiety and stress.

And when we are moving too slow, dragging our feet in the flow of life, like heavy sediment and river debris, we sink to the bottom, stuck in the drudge of despair, lethargy, and depression.

In order to get out of the state of imbalance and confusion, we must figure out where we are in the river.

Those stuck at the bottom of the river need to gather gumption and momentum in order to get out of the mud and back into the flow of their lives.  People who are depressed need to move and move as fast as they can; running, hiking, biking, rock-climbing and more are some of the things that can you out of the mud. But getting out of the mud and into the flow is just the first step, the hardest step of the process.

Secondly, we must figure out ways to stay in the flow throughout our day and to notice when we are starting to sink back down into the mud. Walking to work, walking on lunch breaks, stretching at your desk, eating regularly, and drinking lots of water are all ways to stay in the flow. But move too much,
and we might get anxious.

And if we get caught in the rapids of anxiety, we need to slow down and float for a while. We need to sit still, get a massage, meditate, read a book, have a cup of tea or just take a break to let our hearts and minds slow down to their natural pace, not a rushed one we are imposing on them. But again, that is just the first step.

We must then figure out what we need to do every day to slow ourselves down, things like doing less at work and home and having smaller "to do" lists, and more "to be" lists.

Once you notice where you are in the River, you'll have a general idea of how to work with your energy to get back into the flow and ease of your life.

Speed up or slow down? What do you need to do right now?


Monday, June 11, 2012

My Birthday Celebration/Death Contemplation: Contemplating Death in Order to Celebrate Life

So my 36th birthday was just a few days ago.  I took the day off, with several things on my list of fun things to do to celebrate, including a morning of wandering and taking pictures, first of flowers in the Public Gardens and then gravestones in Camphill Cemetery.

Why, you might ask, would I want to visit a cemetery on my birthday? Well, let me tell you a little story about that. I have always loved walking in cemeteries, even as young child, and most certainly as a teenager, when I was completely obsessed with Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles. I have always experienced a sense of spaciousness among the silent, falling gravestones, a serenity that confirms my hope that the Dead do, in fact, rest in peace.

I grew up near a graveyard, and would frequently walk there, wandering in and out of the granite headstones, tiptoeing in between the grass-covered footstones, trying very hard not to walk over the actual graves themselves – it seemed disrespectful to the Dead, somehow, to step over them while they slept. 

As I grew up and travelled abroad, I continued to journey to wherever people remembered their Dead: the old graveyards of Scotland where the rich, dense moss clung to the gravestones like a second skin; the haunting, stone memorials that depicted the emaciated prisoners of Buchenwald, a concentration camp in Germany; the Killing Fields of Cambodia, where a towering glass monument showcases the skulls of those lost in Pol Pot Regime – a place where hundreds of tiny, yellow and white butterflies gather to offer solace and comfort to those who come to remember the horrors of war and genocide.

As I walked through Camphill Cemetery, taking photographs of the markers of lives lost, I remembered these places and the bittersweet feelings I felt when I had there - the heartache of sorrow and the joy and appreciation of being alive. I reminded myself, that I, too, shall die, and I, too, shall be nothing more in this world than a name written on a stone. 

And even though it seems like a depressing thing to think about on one’s birthday, it is the truth, and it’s a relief for me to acknowledge that. There is a sense of liberation that can only come from calling a spade a spade. When I acknowledge the path that lies ahead for me - suffering, old age, sickness, and death - the realities of the human condition – it reminds me of why I need to pay attention to my life right now, in this very moment, cherish my loved ones, and appreciate my health while I still have it. 

As I left Camphill and went for lunch, the words of John McCrae floated through my head. You may not know his name, but I’ll bet you know the poem he is most known for, for we all had to memorize his haunting words in elementary school:

We are the Dead. Short days ago,
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
loved and were loved and now we lie
in Flanders fields.
It is said in the Buddhist teachings that death comes suddenly and without warning. And with that thought to contemplate, I ate my birthday lunch – a lovely avocado melt and scrumptious chocolate brownie. With my own mortality in mind, I continued on with my birthday celebrations - a peaceful nap, an invigorating yoga class with a live drummer, and Thai take-out with my darling husband. It was a lovely day to be alive.

© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED, Angela Dawn MacKay 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Procrastinating the Positive: Explorations on Why We Don't Do the Things We Love to Do

So, I was looking at the date of my last blog post and I realized it has been five whole months since I have written. Five months! How did that happen?

I love blogging, I really do. And yet, somehow, I didn't do it. And then I have to ask myself, "Why? Why didn't I do something that I love for so long?"

I mean, I could make excuses, some really good ones, too. I was editing a manuscript. I was taking art classes. I updated my website. These are all valid reasons for not blogging, and yet still, they don't seem adequate.

While I don't want to be hard on myself for not writing, I do want to explore why I didn't write so that I don't do it again. Why wouldn't I take the time to do something I love to do?

As near as I can remember the first thing that happened was that I just didn't post for a week or two. "Oh, I'll do that later," I said to myself, "I need to focus on my manuscript right now." Well, "later" turned into several months, which was not my intention at all.

After not posting for so long, I then completely forgot about my blog. How could you have forgotten about your blog, you might ask? The answer is, I don't know, but I guess I must have. I just forgot I had one, forgot it was something I used to like to do.

The next question I have to ask myself is, "How did I come to remember my blog?" Well, I updated my website, which has a link to my blog and then it came to my awareness that a) I had a blog, and b) I hadn't posted in five months. And then I remembered how much I loved blogging, how excited I was when I started the blog, and that was when I renewed my commitment to writing posts.

And so now, after careful exploration, I have discovered a few things that might help me blog more regularly, and I will share them with you, my dear readers:

  • Set a Specific Intention: Note that I used the word "intention", not "goal". And so my intention is to write a blog post weekly, which does not mean I will actually write weekly, just that I intent to. And to even be more specific, I hereby declare Monday as Blog Day, a great way to start the week.
  • Write That Intention Down and Tell Others About it: In writing it down and having others bear witness to it, you are more likely to follow through. That was my mistake before – I had always planned to write weekly, but I didn't tell any one about my intention, and so I was not accountable to anyone, and so had no reason to follow through. In announcing my commitment to my blog to my readers, I already feel more committed because I like to keep my promises. And so if I said I would blog weekly, by Golly, I will.
  • Be Gentle When the Intention Doesn't Lead to Action: Being hard on yourself isn't actually that motivating – it is gentleness that eases us back into action. And so if I don't blog one Monday, I don't have to beat myself up – I can commit to blogging on another day that week, or if that's not possible, give myself permission to skip a week and blog on the following Monday.
  • Remember Why You Want to Do It: When we can connect with our motivation of why we want to engage in a certain activity, it is much easier to remember that we want to do it, not that we have to. It was my fond memories of the experience of blogging that brought me back to post. We have to remember why we want to do the things we love to do. For me, I love writing things and letting them go, knowing that anyone in the world could read them. I love feeling connected with clients outside of sessions, offering my writings as a way to support others when they are not in my office. And I just love plain old' writing, that's really the heart of it. 
And so with that said, I'll see you next Monday. Or not. :-)