heart beat

You fuss and I guess correctly,

Do you want a hug?

You open your arm to me, the one that moves more easily.

I fold into you. I relax, you relax.

I rest my head against your chest and hear your heart.

Your poor heart. I feel you in this heart, how hard it must be to be in your body, always racing and slowing, terror and collapse.

Hawthorn tincture from the tree across the street. Fierce and gentle medicine for a heart that needs protection and soothing. Ice cream and hugs for a heart that needs to love and feel loved.

This is the medicine of care : noticing and doing what you can.

Always seeking to soften into the rhythm.

Melt love into fear until there is no boundary between what you can and cannot allow yourself to feel.

Feel it all, but softer.

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Ability and will power

To the extent that ability increases, the need for conscious effort of the will decreases. The effort required to increase ability provides sufficient and efficient exercise for our will power. If you consider the matter carefully you will discover that most people of strong will power (which they have trained for its own sake) are also people with relatively poor ability. People who know how to operate effectively do so without great preparation and without much fuss. People of great will power tend to apply too much force instead of moderate forces more effectively.

If you rely mainly on your will power, you will develop your ability to strain and become accustomed to applying an enormous amount of force to actions that can be carried out with much less energy, if it is properly directed and graduated.

Both these ways of operating usually achieve their objective, but the former may also cause considerable damage. Force that is not converted into movement does not simply disappear, but is dissipated into damage done to joints, muscles, and other sections of the body used to create the effort. Energy not converted into movement turns into heat within the system and causes changes that will require repair before the system can operate efficiently again.

Whatever we can do well does not seem difficult to us. We may even venture to say that movements we find difficult are not carried out correctly.

from Awareness Through Movement, by Moshe Feldenkrais.

Everyone needs to do Feldenkrais.

Workshopping a meltdown and letting go of empath tendencies

I had a really uncomfortable dance last night and picked up on the person’s obsessive and spiraling emotions. My aim is to stop empathing other people’s stuff and create a much better energetic boundary between me and other people.

Feeling this guy’s feelings and the awful, jangly mood I ended up in (and the fact that I immediately came down with a cold after this experience), gave me an opportunity to think about the way certain emotional habits in other people (dissociating, checking out, shame/self-worth spirals) are a big trigger for me to drop my personal defenses and get into their shit, which is both super destructive to my own mental health and really invasive and useless to them. We both end up in the shit for no good reason.

I am working to transcend this habit in myself. There is ambivalence around this habit of mine, and here are some thoughts and feelings that came up last night in the hours I spend trying to come back into myself after this experience.

Take responsibility for myself and my feelings and boundaries.

Take responsibility for ending dynamics that are making me uncomfortable.

Do not dance with someone if I’m uncomfortable. There were multiple times when I started to get uncomfortable where I could have stopped the pattern / dance before it flipped into an intolerable state that overwhelmed me and made my night difficult.

The inverse to my fear of people checking out is my compulsive need for connection

I can be comfortable with people checking out without having to stay with them. Other people’s ability to stay present is not my problem.

The fact that it feels like my problem (feels unsafe) when other people check out is leftover child trauma stuff, where I needed to keep my caregivers engaged in order to be safe / nurtured / fed / cared for.

Letting go of my need / compulsion around other people checking out or staying present will lead to true autonomy.

“But how will I be special!?!?!?” the child self asks. If I let go of my compulsion to keep other people checked in, I let go of my child self’s survival strategy – caretaker / healer / codependent / the one with no needs.

Caretaking kills joy. This realisation came actually the night before this dance, in a long conversation with Adam, and this experience was a really direct opportunity to experience how this dynamic plays out in my life.

What does this all mean other than just walking away from these interactions? For now, the idea to create physical distance. This strategy (staying away from people who push my buttons so that I lose track of my own selfhood) has served me well in breaking other habits – most notably, in not getting mixed up with people with strong narcissistic tendencies. I do not need to right now understand why I do this, the main thing at this point is to create some mental health hygiene for myself so I can start to heal from this ingrained habit.

It seems impossibly simple but if I walk away I get to see what the next stage of healing is, work with what will come after I change the habit. There is always a next step down the road. What happens if I don’t try to solve someone else’s pain for them?

My joy can not dependent on how other people are feeling.

My joy can’t be contingent on other people. Autonomous joy that no one can take away from me (even if they don’t dance with me or like me).

“I want to be (i.e. appear) joyful so that other people will like me,” the childself says. I am only good if I am useful and able to create experiences for other people. My feelings only matter in relation to how they affect other people. My feelings exist as a mirror to how other people are feeling. I am a mirror that reflects back what people want to see.

Don’t get aversive to this guy or situations like this. Don’t try to fix or caretake. Create physical boundaries rather than shutting down. Aim for neutral equanimity. Aversive is as emotionally problematic as care taking since my energy and thoughts are focused on avoiding the other person and their problems, which makes them too prominent in my experience. How can I not take on other people’s emotions, or if I do – as I might from time to time while I develop this new skill – just let them go?

Still working with fear

I hear what I think is someone knocking at the door, or a truck outside, and realize it is my heartbeat in my ears.

I am aware of my heartbeat for the first time in my life. This is the feeling of being alive.

I am learning to tolerate higher levels of sensation. Practicing Metta meditation with a friend the other day, sending love and safety to myself and to others, the level of sensation in my body was so high that I wanted to keel over, woozy with feeling. My heart an insistent drum. I have more practice sitting with this tension between wanting to feel and not feel, and by the end of our time sitting, I felt the sensations move into a tolerable range.

If you sit with it, it changes. What you give your attention, you learn to love.

As I am dancing, I notice the way it feels so different with each person and in each moment. I am learning to separate out what are my feelings and what are someone else’s. The wheeze I notice when I press my chest up against someone else’s is not my wheeze, even though it still makes my lungs feel a bit heavier to think about it. Separate but connected.

The joy I feel when I’m dancing is soon met with an equal measure of fear. I hide this fear from myself beneath obsessive thought and talking. CBD tincture and yoga lets me feel the feelings underneath the habit of busyminding my way out of them. I know that this fear lives in me, just like I am learning that this joy also lives inside me. They are both mine. In order to let the fear move through me, I need the joy.

So here I am, in this seesaw between new expansive pleasure and the same old self-worth worries. My job between the moments of joy is to let the fear move through me, to make room for the way my heart is reorganizing, daring to feel.

My allies:

Hawthorn tincture made from fresh haws last fall from the park near my house. It feels like fairy medicine. Eases grief, soothes fear, builds strength and courage. Long term medicine for a resilient heart.

Motherwort tincture made from fresh blooms at my mother’s house last summer. Anxiety EMT, it lets me do the things I need to do and calms the cascading panic that my self-worth worries and my own sensitive nervous system can set off. Strengthens the womb and heart, the two strongest (in that order) muscles.

When I need to get under the anxiety and feel the sadness, fear and anger that my body has done such a good job at protecting me from, CBD cannabis tincture works wonders.

The warm embrace of a calm, curious and playful stranger. That gift of no-fear that helps me find my generosity toward myself and others.

Downtime.

Weekly yoga class that I always want to squirm out of but always benefit from, taught by someone who knew and loved my mom.

Feldenkrais, the gentlest way to do the most good for your body and mind, and which allows me to move my body with such increasing ease I can hardly believe what is possible.

Loving-kindness meditation, the Buddhist science of improving vagal tone and developing the capacity to feel and be love.

working with fear

Hid my head under the blankets this morning easing into the kernel of fear and nervousness embedded in an obsessive thought that has been catching my attention for the past few days. Hideaway sleep in late body scan insight meditation.

This piece was revealed to me in sitting with my inability to tolerate this fear and nervousness in another person. The things that I want to turn away from in others are a key to the ways I abandon myself.

In growing my container big enough to feel my own feelings, I need to also feel the fear of these feelings, the fear that I am not strong enough to take these feelings on, and the fear both that I will or will not grow to meet the demands of the vibrant pleasure and pain of being fully alive.

The aliveness in my chest, the sensation of a strongly beating heart, the expansion that comes from letting myself melt into this aliveness, and from taking a break when I need one.

 

Novelty, Love, Joy

Weed is great but tango is better.

Oh my god are we not the luckiest humans? In the summer I get to solo-sail a child sized boat across an ocean sized lake under a blue sky with my feet in the water and in the winter I get to fall in love over and over again in the warmth and safety of a tango embrace. And as the winter melts into spring I get to feel my body melt along with the snow and come alive again with the plants. Don’t even get me started on the fall: the smell of the sun on dry leaves, warm mugs and cool nights.

We are swimming in this precious life.

my new obsession

woke up at 4 am working out a tango vals in my sleep, my dream dance using all my concentration, as intensely focused as I am during a tanda. so many parts of my brain firing at once, I feel like my feet were in a jumble in my bed, not moving physically but in my dream working so hard to be in sync with the subtle suggestions of my partner and the 3/4 pulse.

my dreams have been waking me up lately. I see it as a good sign. I remember tracking my dreams in high school and being surprised to see how vivid they became in the summer, when I wasn’t in class. I remember driving to Nova Scotia with my mom and writing down so many nap dreams about the boys I was in love with—the most pressing thing in my 14 year old mind.

I told my first dance partner tonight that I was nervous. he said he gets nervous, too, after years of practice. I told him my theory that this nervousness—motioned to my throat, that fills me up—is the fundamental sensation of being alive, at the edge of your comfort zone.

this week has been heavy, justice-wise. my survival strategy for my anxiety-prone body has been to use all the parts of my brain and soothe all the parts of my body that would otherwise be fully submerged in the terror of being alive. walking, dancing, meditation, Feldenkrais, hot chocolate for breakfast. filling myself up with a kind of aliveness that helps me keep living. learning to plant my feet more deeply in the earth, literally—letting go of the waver that keeps me on the edge of the abyss.

for years at work the dreams that would wake me up would be my brain mired in spreadsheets or broken photocopy machines.

your body is a restless animal. you have been domesticated but there is wildness inside you.

I google Argentine tango and neuroplasticity to confirm my suspicion that there is something about this dance. I don’t know why it draws me in so strongly except for the exquisite challenge of calming my bewildered mind so that my body can do what it knows how to do—move and be moved by and with another body. in order to show up for this great task, I have to bring myself as close to my centre as I can. I walk, meditate, and take motherwort before each session.

I am not surprised to read that Argentine tango outperforms ballroom in motor outcomes for folks with Parkinson’s Disease, or that improvised partner dancing in general outperforms other forms of exercise, including choreographed dancing, in reducing one’s risk of developing dementia. I am pulled out of my sleep feeling as if every part of my brain is being overhauled to dance this dream waltz. Of course it is creating new pathway. As in meditation, to tango I return my focus again and again to the buzzing newness of each moment. No routine, no certainty. Alive at the edge of my comfort zone.

A good article for being alive at this time: A Buddhist monk explains mindfulness for times of conflict