Men + Myself + God

Tag: spirituality

A Post About Growing up & 9-11 (#31writenow, #nablopomo)

by P. Braithwaite

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When I was a child, I’d have these nightmares. I’m still not entirely sure what they were about, but I’d climb into my parents’ bed and wedge myself between the two of them. I’d throw my arms and legs over my father and fall asleep on him. My mother was less tolerant of my nightly intrusions, but my dad never seemed annoyed. I felt safe in between them. This went on until I was about eight, and then I came to a realization: it was time to sleep in my own bed.

On September 11th 2001, I could smell the smoke from the fallen towers from my house. We were over 40 miles away, but it didn’t feel that way. It was terrifying. The towers fell every three minutes on the television replays.

I was so confused by what was going on.

And so, that night, unable to find safety in my 17 year old body, I crawled into my parents’ bedroom and wedged myself between them. This was something I hadn’t done in years.

In the dark, crammed onto their small bed, I realized there were things in this world from which my parents’ couldn’t save me. I no longer lived in the world of night terrors and bad dreams. I lived in a world with real problem (in my backyard). I understood my parents’ limits as I understood my own. We were all in danger together.

In that moment I became an adult.

At a certain point we realize that our parents, partners, and heroes are simply people. They are imperfect. They can’t save us. They are complex and contradictory. They have limits; they miss the mark. Sometimes they don’t know what to do. Sometimes they do the absolute wrong thing. They’re not made of magic, and they can’t rescue you from the demons in your head…

Even superheroes have fundamental flaws.

And when you get that, when you understand we’re all just people, that’s when you must learn to forgive your heroes for their flaws. People even the ones we most admire most, are no wiser, better, or grander than you — you can release them from all of your faulty expectations.

You can also release yourself from the impossible task of perfection. That when you become responsible for your self.

When that happens — when your heroes become real people — hug them as if you’re hugging yourself. We’re all in this together, after all.

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How NOT to be Crazy: A Case Study

by P. Braithwaite

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The following is a personal case study that happened over the span of approximately 2 hours. It is broken down into 34 steps for your convenience.

Patia, preparing to visit her parents on Long Island, goes out to get into her car.

1. She can’t remember where she parks. (frustration)
2. She sees the delivery guy from her favorite neighborhood noodle shop, and realizes she wants Udon (desire and hunger)
3. She remembers where she parked. (elation)
4. She also remembers that she forgot to move her car on Friday and she might have a ticket. (worry)
5. She chastises herself on the way to the car. (self-loathing)
6. She locates her car. (cautious elation)
7. She approaches her car and discovers that somehow, though she was parked on the wrong side of the street, she didn’t get a ticket. (joy)
8. She opens her car door and finds a three inch puddle on her driver’s side seat. (intense anger bordering on raging tears)
9. She calls her father. (Learned helplessness)
10. No answer. (anger)
11. She walks to the store to get some cheap towels. (irritation)
12. She thinks, “Hey maybe Century 21 will have a wet vac.” (optimism)
13. The guy at Century 21 looks at her like she’s crazy, and informs her that they don’t sell wet vacs. (sadness and slight embarrassment)
14. She remembers her father telling her that the car was fine. (anger)
15. She calls her father again. No answer. (rage)
16. She thinks about using her ex-boyfriend’s clothes to clean the puddle (rage giving way to mean-spirited amusement)
17. She decides they probably won’t absorb the puddle. (resurgence of anger)
18. She calls her parent’s house and blames them for her problem (temporary calm)
19. She remembers she’s 30 and responsible for her own car (shame and remorse)
20. She sits on a bench and prays (relative calm)
21. She google searches “handheld wet/vac” and discovers PC Richards carries such items. (optimism)
22. She thanks God and congratulates herself for praying.(still happy)
23. She remembers that it is Sunday and PC Richards might be closed. (worry)
24. She hastily moves through the crowded street hoping she gets there in time. (angst)
25. She shows up and it’s open. (relief)
26. She flirts with the unattractive shop guy who is helping her. (smugness)
27. She pays for a wet vac and frets about her finances. (angst)
28. She chastises herself for not being able to afford a wet vac without worry.(shame)
29. She realizes she’s going to have to charge this vacuum before using it.(irritation)
30. She realizes she’s exhausted from all these emotions. (amusement)
31. She sits down on her stoop to look at the directions. (Relief)
32. She realizes she’s looking at the Spanish directions. (irritation)
33. She finds the English directions and realizes that she cannot use the vacuum for approximately 24 hours. (irritation giving way to amusement)
34. She decides the universe wants her to stay home order Udon, sit on the couch and write a blog post about emotions. (Calm)

The lesson: we create our own drama and we’re fully committed to the role. When we commit to the whims of external forces a special kind of craziness erupts…

I’m learning more and more that, external circumstances do not have to dictate our internal state. When we’re on auto-pilot, we become a slave to external forces. We’re blown in every direction, if we don’t take the time to bring awareness to our inner selves. “She made me angry” we declare, or “This situation ruined my day.”

That’s bullshit.

If we realize that external conditions don’t really dictate our mood… we can choose how we’re seeing a given situation. There’s a lesson (and a potential blog post) in everything that happens, and when we slow down and breathe into it, we discover that things, at the very least, are manageable

All the time. Not matter how large or small. If we simply slow down, we’ll find our calm.

I’m learning this.
In real time.
From my couch.
Rest assured, my delivery guy is on the way. 🙂

Old Zen Masters Feel Things Too

by P. Braithwaite

The other day, during my Zen Class, our teacher told us the story of an old zen master that really stuck with me. She got the story from Diana Winston’s book, Wide Awake, which is a book about Buddhism written for teenagers.

The story goes like this:

Once there was an old zen master who was known for his deep wisdom and mindfulness. He was an expert and a leader in his country. One day the old master’s son died in a terrible accident, and people came from everywhere to offer their condolences. They came because they hoped to provide comfort to the old master, but they also came to see how the old master would react. Would he have a greater deeper understanding of life that allowed him to be still and peaceful during this horrible ordeal?

When the people came upon the old master he was crying, and they were shocked.

“You’re not supposed to cry!” they said. “You are a zen master and you aren’t supposed to be attached!”

The zen master said, “like you, I experience the pain of loss, but for me, the turnaround time is quicker.”

The turnaround time is quicker.

This story hit home for me in such a deep way — so much of my underlying journey to find balance is wrapped up in the expectation that I won’t have to FEEL as deeply. If I meditate a little longer, do an extra
Sun Salutation maybe I’ll learn not to be hurt, scared, lonely…or even too happy, excited, or enthusiastic.

This story indicates that, maybe, I’m ignoring the point. Humans feel things. I’d wager that from the moment we’re born we are constantly faced with the discomfort that comes from being alive. To not feel is to cease to be human. So, I am allowed to recognize the feelings that arise. Here’s the trick though, the old zen master realized the transient nature of feelings and pain. Buddhist believe that pain is inevitable…suffering however is the choice. And so, In the midst of his despair, the old zen master knew it wouldn’t last forever. There was space between his awareness and his pain.

So that’s the key: The understanding that we ARE NOT our feelings. We are humans…being. We are awareness, having a human experience, so it’s okay to recognize and accept how we feel when edged up things happen, but when we think we ARE the feelings…when we think we ARE the effed up thing that happened…that’s when we get into trouble.

So today, ambivalence has creeped into my life. Today there is a mix of anger and profound fear that is blocking my ability to love freely. I am not fear, but it feels like I am. The fear that exists here is palpable. Though I want to, I will not try and ignore or suppress these feelings — like the old Zen Master, I will create space and permission for these feelings to exist, and trust that (like everything else) the feelings will eventually pass.

What feelings are you avoiding today? Can you create space for your discomfort?