Thursday, October 31, 2013

happy halloween.

Friday, October 4, 2013

just breathe.

I remember the exact moment I fell in love with meditation. I was in fourth grade. My class was brought down to the makeshift room behind the cafeteria where we had music class. Our music teacher, who taught us about a different kind of music each week, put in a new CD by David Sun called Enchanted Forest and encouraged us to close our eyes, breathe deeply and relax.

Everyone else in the class seemed to be looking around embarrassed or rolling their eyes at the absurd suggestion, but I was in to it. I remember closing my eyes, letting the music carry me away and feeling light, feeling free, feeling my breath take me away. What a nine-year-old has to escape, I have no idea, but I was sold. So much so that I went back after school to ask the music teacher to write down the artist's information for me and as soon as I got home that afternoon I told my parents that the only thing I really wanted for my tenth birthday was that CD. I used to sit cross-legged on my bed, listening to the two songs on repeat for hours. While I no longer have a functioning CD player, I still have that CD in my basement. It has been played too many times to count.

Fast forward to sixth grade. My Language Arts and Social Studies teacher, Mrs. Kramer, decided to experiment with a unit on imagination. The very first day she had us all lay down on the carpeted floor in our classroom, close our eyes, and follow her through a guided meditation. I don't remember what was said, but I will forever remember the disbelief as I felt my body slowly sink down into the carpet, into the floor beneath the carpet, into the earth beneath the floor, inch by inch by inch until I was sure I was at least a foot underground.

Meditation was a powerful tool for me back then. I could use it to uplift me or to ground me as needed because I believed it could. As the years progressed and I became more and more jaded, I started losing faith in the ability of meditation to help me face whatever life threw at me. The idea that sitting and breathing could solve "real" adult problems seemed devastatingly naive and so I rolled my eyes at the absurdity like my fourth-grade classmates had rolled their eyes at me.

Yet I couldn't shake the nagging feeling that the child in me had been on to something. I longed for the peace I had found in quiet moments alone on my bed and my attempts to replicate that tranquility through other means proved fruitless.

It was my freshman year of college that I rediscovered that peace, in a small stuffy room off of the counseling center in a weekly meditation class led by a small man with kind eyes and a voice of honey. I left the building that evening drunk with sensation, feeling completely alive for what seemed to be the first time.

It helped me through countless dark hours as the years progressed. The moments I needed it most seemed to directly correlate with the moments I most resisted it.

Which brings us to the now, (which is all there really is, isn't it? - this present moment?) where I need it more than ever. If ever I needed a way to stay grounded, to feel uplifted, to remain calm, to escape, it is now, caught in the challenging throes of new parenthood.

I need meditation now more than I ever have in my life. So I signed up for a study on mindful meditation and am taking a ten-week course. I am only two weeks in and already I am falling in love all over again.

What I have found is that the child in me had been on to something. Rediscovering the power of meditation has shown me that while, yes, sitting mindfully can still uplift or ground me for a fleeting moment or two if I believe it will, it will not magically and instantaneously solve my problems. If sitting cross-legged on my bed as a nine-year-old and listening to downtempo instrumentals made me feel high on life it's because I was - I was a child after all with not enough experience to drag me down. Yet the power of meditation lies not in uplifting and euphoric moments as it's made out to, but instead in the practice of staying present and simply staying, even and especially in the most difficult moments. Its power is not found in the moments I am meditating, but instead in the moments I am not.

Every time I struggle to sit still and focus and then give in and just stay with my breath during meditation, I am empowered to give in and just stay during other seemingly impossible moments of my life. After the emotional pain of a traumatic birth, the struggle of the possibility of having a child with disabilities, the impossibility of caring for newborn twins and maintaining a healthy relationship with a spouse, the unbelievable physical strain of not sleeping or eating well for nine months, not to mention the crazy postpartum hormonal ride, I have never not wanted to sit and feel the stress and full weight of the crosses I have to bare more. But instead of my survival tactics as of a few weeks ago, mainly drinking a few beers or glasses (bottles) of wine and eating a banana nut muffin (or a few loaves), I am just sitting, breathing and staying with it all. It's bleeping hard and it hurts and most of the time I absolutely hate it.

But just like the meditation, I know if I sit and breathe and just stay through the discomfort, eventually I'll get through it. And who knows, once I'm done processing this crazy mental trainwreck, maybe, just maybe, someday I'll feel the spiritual nirvana of my enlightened heyday back in fourth grade.

Until then, I'll be sitting here, staying, just breathing.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

project zero.

Almost five years ago I took on a lofty project in an effort to overcome some serious emotional distress. Looking back on that time in my life with five more years of experience, what appeared to be rock bottom, huge and abysmal and life-altering, now seems like a tiny rut compared to the physical and emotional trauma I've been through in the past year.

I've recently been diagnosed with PTSD and PPD and my struggle coming to terms with the diagnosis and finally accepting that I need help to process and resolve these issues explains my recent absence. I'm sure I will delve into my journey in much more detail in the future as I attempt to find some sort of resolution, but for now I am reverting back to what was once a saving grace at a dark time in my life.

It is called Project Zero. The basic idea is to compile a list of 101 tasks within 1001 days. The tasks must be specific and either measurable or clearly defined, with no ambiguity in the wording (for example, "listen to 12 pieces by Mozart that I've never heard of" as opposed to "listen to more classical music"). They must also be realistic, though hopefully will push me beyond the boundaries of my current comfort zone (I probably won't realistically be able to ride in the Tour de France within the next three years, but I might be able to ride STP). 

If I learned anything from my last experience with this project, it is that it is highly unlikely that I will complete all 101 tasks. I am hoping to approach this time around with an open mind and full awareness that it is not accomplishing the tasks themselves that is important, but that the mindfulness of focusing on specific goals will direct my attention away from unhealthy thought processes.

I have appreciated all of your love and support with all of my endeavors, and this is no exception. I would love more than anything to hear your thoughts, your words of wisdom or encouragement, and your feedback throughout this journey.

Without further ado, the much anticipated list*, to be started today, October 1, 2013 and to be completed by Monday, June 27, 2016:

1 Meditate
2 Take my vitamins
3 Drink enough water (my body weight divided by two in ounces, plus and additional one ounce per pound of baby while breastfeeding)

4 Cuddle with my husband
5 Write and send a letter or a card
6 One comic drawn and posted
7 Write an inspirational quote on the kitchen chalkboard

8 Read one book I've never read
9 Go on a date with my husband
10 Buy a lotto ticket
11 Buy one item of clothing or accessory
12 Go on a family hike
13 Prepare one new recipe

14 Do Bike MS
15 Have a potluck
16 Give blood

17 Complete a month of thankfulness
18 Write down an idea for a greeting card every day for one month
19 No TV or movies for one month
20 No Facebook for one month
21 No processed foods for one month
22 No alcohol for one month
23 Go swimming 3x a week for one month
24 Go to bed before 10pm every day for one month
25 Read one poem every day for one month
26 Blog every day for one month
27 Eat meat for one month
28 Be vegan for one month
29 Eat gluten-free for one month
30 Find flute music and practice every day for one month
31 Keep the house entirely clean every day for one month

32 Complete a meditation course
33 Complete 40 days to Personal Revolution
34 Do a three day juice cleanse (once the boys are weaned)
35 Complete Project Reconnect
36 Go through my wardrobe, get rid of the old & unused
37 Start the divine beings project
38 No technology or media whatsoever for one full day
39 Get a pedicure
40 Get a foot massage

41 Go to Alaska 
42 Go to Italy
43 Touch a new continent (South America!)
44 Visit every park in Seattle
45 Visit A & J in San Francisco
46 Visit K in Iowa
47 Go on a two-day vacation by myself

48 Go wine tasting
49 Buy & enjoy an expensive bottle of wine 
50 Can something
51 Make my own cheese
52 Make a meal using only local ingredients
53 Make 10 different types of homemade bread 
54 Acquire 10 bottles of spirits and start a liquor cabinet
55 Try 10 new foods I've never tried before
56 Eat at 10 local restaurants I've never been to

57 Complete the application for MIT at UW
58 Complete my MIT
59 Become certified as a translator/interpreter
60 Join or create a bookclub
61 Read 10 parenting books

62 Complete baby book for each boy
63 Plant the boys' placentas
64 Open savings accounts for the boys
65 Take a class with just Owen
66 Make each of my boys a stuffed animal
67 Make Halloween costumes for the boys

68 Create an Etsy
69 Make & sell bibs
70 Get my own internet domain
71 Write a children's book
72 Publish something in a printed medium
73 Finish the knit patchwork blanket
74 Learn to crochet
75 Paint 10 paintings on canvas
76 Take a photography class
77 Find & develop all my old rolls of film
78 Learn photoshop
79 Print out copies of my favorite photos
80 Complete the color/food photo project

81 Go ice skating
82 Go camping at Larribee State Park
83 Go to a Sounder's game
84 Go fishing
85 Go mushroom picking
86 Cut my own Christmas tree

87 Ride my bike to Lake Chelan
88 Ride RSVP
89 Ride STP
90 Run a half marathon
91 Go climbing
92 Go paddleboarding

93 Visit Point Defiance Zoo
94 Visit Mount Rainier
95 Visit Olympic National Park
96 Visit the grandparents in Sequim
97 Get professional photos of the family taken
98 Put together a homeopathic first aid kit
99 Have a wedding ceremony
100 Buy a house
101 Get pregnant again

*I reserve the right to alter, edit, replace or otherwise change tasks as I see fit throughout the course of this journey.

Let the games begin!