Move your mind, Move your body, Move your soul.
Is there a dark side to meditation? Can there be such a thing as too much meditating?!?
I had a curiosity the other day about conspiracy theories and meditators. I will admit, I am a little bit of both. I meditate regularly (although not as much as I used to) and I have a *healthy* dose of skepticism about life in general. Is one at all correlated with the other?
There have been spotlights shone on the fact that many in the (white) wellness industry have been "infiltrated" by Q Anon. There are platforms that were once dedicated to a better understanding of vaccines (what is in them, choice to receive) and now have leapt to the consitutionality of being asked/told to wear a mask.
When I was deep in my meditation practice, I went down a number of rabbit holes, seeking perspectives beyond my own thinking, seeking purpose, finding connections where connections may or may not exist. Why was this?
I noticed friends and celebs (or people with larger platforms/audiences than my own) starting to use my preferred language (around "light", "energy", "discernment", "living your truth") almost against me. The language was becoming radicalized, in my opinion. One prominent white woman in wellness even referred to her online community as the "radical light" instead of "radical right" - and one day she freudian slipped in saying the wrong phrase. I listened to a few more episodes. I felt off kilter and was told I must be experiencing cognitive dissonance (another big term in the trauma-wellness-conspiracy world).
Then I turned to the Brain.
I'm taking a neurobiology course for fun right now through Coursera. I love the brain. I am fascinated by how it works and impacts our perceptions, behaviors and reality. And so I wondered if there could be a biological connection between we women in wellness and our penchant for conspiracy theories. Now, I am at best an armchair dabbler. I am not an expert at all. This is totally just me trying to figure out a reason for this reality I find myself in. OK, caveats complete...
Studies demonstrate that meditation increases dopamine levels in the brain. Now, dopamine is awesome. One of it's jobs - is as the "reward" neurotransmitter. It's the feel good sensation we get after we do something with success, eat a cookie, or get a certain number of likes on our IG post. This article is a great discussion of how dopamine works in terms of rewards and also highlights the connection with dopamine and the identification of patterns. So it stands the reason that with the influx of dopamine, our brains might be hunting for more connections and patterns - potentially seeing patterns where they may not exist.
Once we think we see patterns, our confirmation bias continues to find data that supports that claim. Social media's algorithms work exactly this way. Giving us the information that we think we already know - fueling our beliefs (and keeping us online, and hopefully buying their stuff longer). In fact, in writing this piece at this very moment, I AM WORKING THIS WAY. I am reviewing articles to support my view. Damn.
As mentioned in all of these articles cited (and more), we are in the midst of a very uncertain time. "Uncertain times" breed more cults, disinformation, and conspiracy theories as we all try to make sense of our world. The more we are awash in this fear zone (even if we are actively working to be brave), the more our brain works to create patterns to make sense of our lives.
And here I am - doing the same - trying to make sense of it all.
Today is a new moon in Sagittarius. It's also a solar eclipse. And there is a Grand Square happening. Everything I've read tells me that this is a big one. I nice, cleansing re-set. Letting go of the stories + beliefs that are ready to be composted into new life.
I pulled the High Priestess today, just as I did yesterday. Remembering to listen to your heart. Remaining open + receptive. Allowing yourself to receive.
I wish this for the whole world, actually. To stay aligned with your highest aspirations. To stay open. To let in joy + gifts + signs from your loved ones. We are all going to be ok. Exhale.
My tarot pulls this week have been all about alignment and a review of the facets of my life to see where they are in or out of alignment.
Finances have also been coming up. This is no shocker, since it's the holiday season. I have also just finished paying off taxes from 2019, I am also in the process of self-publishing my Vibe Guide, kids need boots, etc, etc. Some seasons are big money suckers and December is one of those times for me.
In the spirit of alignment, I am looking at my relationship with money. And under the light of the trauma triangle. The triangle identifies three roles we play when we give our power away.
The role I play most in regards to money is the rescuer (sometimes martyr). I spend money on everyone and everything before my own needs + desires. Even the smallest things - clothes, my car registration, investment in myself through classes or buying an ISBN for my book! It feels hard to spend this money. And yet, when I am paying for others' needs + wants, I have an easier time. I don't seem to argue with myself about the worthiness of a purchase.
Why is this?
With all of my work on self-love, self-compassion, and self-kindness, it is now (finally?) moving into the realm of the material.
How do I treat myself? How do I invest in my growth? What value do I put on bringing beauty into my life? And what do I want that to look like? I'm working on aligning my vision of my highest + best and how that can be supported by the energy of money. As they say, when the student is ready, the lesson/teacher arrives. And this new re-write of mine is about worth in a whole different light.
Every day after writing my gratitudes, I pull a tarot card. Its meant to capture the essence of the day for me - what I will pay attention to, where my energy might gravitate.
Today, on the lunar eclipse - with 3 more weeks of shrinking light and growing shadows - OF COURSE, I pick The Devil. Now, the Devil gets a bad wrap. As if it's reminding us of all of those "bad parts" of us and that we must tame the beast or whatever. No.
The Devil card is a reminder that we have parts of ourselves that we hide from the world. We hide the things that we are told will make us UN-loveable. The Devil card is really trying to tell us that we are going to face those parts of us - and the best thing we can do it LOVE 'em. Let them come forward, out of the dark, and tell them we love them too.
I think it's seriously awesome that I pulled this card today. During eclipse season's many are encouraged to let things be illuminated and then fall away. Our beings/psyches are protective. Our bodies are always moving towards balance, health, well-being. The qualities that we see in ourselves are also protective.
Perhaps today - or this season, this month - you might notice how it has all come to serve you in your highest and best. And those things that you no longer need will dissipate with the morning light.
Maybe it's the current phase of the moon, growing towards full on the 30th. It is a time for action (1st quarter moon) and refinement.
PLUS, it's Thanksgiving week. Many are gathering differently this year. Many are also considering Thanksgiving in a different light as more shed the true history behind Thanksgiving. What it is. What it never was. And what it could be.
Maybe it is also because of the phase I find myself in, nearing Mid-Life. Rather than having a full on Mid-Life Crisis or "Awakening" (a la Brene Brown. I love you, Brene!), I am having a Mid-Life Re-Write. I'm coining it right now.
For several days I've been scribbling about my old stories. With 43 years perspective layered on those past experiences, they don't sound the same when I speak them anymore. Re-writing them feels like taking my power back.
A re-write doesn't have to be writing, but of course, I love to write. I spent a couple of days imagining that every single thing in my life happened in my favor. Even the bad stuff. Even the regrets and the resentments. What if it was all for my benefit? And then I wrote the story of my life.
Today might be a bit of a ramble.
It's so funny how healing is. I can tell you what it isn't. It isn't a one-time thing. It isn't getting somewhere and everything is a jolly ole pile of rainbows one day. It comes and goes. Much like water, and maybe this is why the ocean seems to know me.
I took today off of work. I was feeling this pent up "doneness" brimming. Quick to annoyance. Quick to tears. Realizing I am feeling a little off. That's the sub-title of this year, isn't it?
So I took the day - and I'm not calling it 'self-care', because I feel really adverse to that language (not sure why yet). I don't know what I'm calling it. But it's a day to re-set my nervous system. It's a focused healing, here-and-now day. It's a remembering who I am day. I'm saying YES to what I want and No, Thanks to those things I don't. Of course, I'm still a Mama, surrounded by teens who are surfacing their own emotions. I still have bills to pay and a list of "things" to do. I suppose it's expanding the time + space to breathe into my heart and to listen to what I need. And then doing those things.
A couple of realizations today:
I am so excited to continue this day. It is like a deep breath for my whole being.
"What you seek is seeking you" - Rumi
We are all likely familiar with this quote - that whatever it is you are looking for is looking for you too. I have found comfort in this quote in the past.
Today, I'm feeling it a bit turned on it's head:
"Embody what you seek" - Anne Davis :)
When I am looking for peace, looking for love, looking for connection - I find that when I embody those things, when I try to incarnate the nature of that thing - then I have it.
It's a fun exercise (for me, anyway!) to think about and play about. What is peace? What does it look like, feel like in the body? What clothing represents peace? What ice cream flavor is it?
More to come on this... Article in process ;)
I am in a total funk. Funkdified.
I pay my taxes in October every year rather than April. With my husband and I both running small businesses, we need all the time we can gather in order to pull our sh*t together. So we just filed (two days before the deadline, just sayin').
Paying taxes makes me annoyed at best. This year, it totally pisses me off because our President doesn't pay his taxes and apparently gazillionaires are all paying less than me. So this year, I am exceptionally angry - and today, when I have to pay - ugh. Top it off with a dreary, cold, 45 degree October rain, with people at work who are challenging my nerves, with a sinkful of dirty dishes -- and the result is a lady in a total Funk.
Thankfully, this is not my first rodeo. And I have a handwritten list of things that help me to get out of a funk:
What gets you out of a funk?
I heard something the other day that made me bristle. It was a white woman in wellness talking about how we can use our bodies & our intuition as a "barometer of truth."
There is a lot of talk about this in the wellness space. That we "know" the truth for ourselves. When it comes to filtering through stories, information and perspectives, people are called to "use their discernment".
On the surface, I buy in to this.
Like many with trauma histories, it has taken me a long time to feel that I could trust myself - my decisions, my body, my intuition. My body does house my history, and I have used talk therapy, yoga, writing & creative tools to regulate my nervous system and to move outside of the fight/flight/freeze/fawn trauma response.
Under the surface though, I question it the whole "your body is a barometer of truth". Especially in the world today where violence against black people being filmed and disseminated.
Police officers "seeing" guns in people's hands when it was really candy/a phone/nothing. Women putting keys through their knuckle-creases as they walk in a parking lot, sensing that something was "off" - but no one is there. A young child sees monster in the corner of the room, which turns out to be a pile of clothes.
These feelings, no doubt, felt very real to the feeler. And yet, here are instances of your intuition leading you astray. None of these situations were truly threatening, but the person sensed a threat none the less.
And what of the bias that is steeped in our culture regarding the "threat" of black people? Of course we use language to demonize and de-humanize black and people of color. We also have built in biases FELT in the body when we see black bodies. Crossing the street, averting eyes, assuming wrong-doing. It is highly prevalent.
So how do I reconcile these two things? Does your "body as barometer" hold true? Or is it just upholding our fears, biases, and past traumas?
I've come to the conclusion that our intuition *might not be* magic. I don't want to say it isn't magic, because there are still elements I can't quite explain. But the brain is magic, after all, and intuition is a brain function.
Our brains are constantly predicting what is about to happen in order to keep us physically safe. So in this sense, the brain is total magic. These predictions are based on previous experiences (inclusive of thoughts, feelings, and actions). The predictions help us navigate through our lives so that every occurrence isn't a complete shock to the system.
Intuition is knowing something "without evident rational thought and inference." Intuition is still our brain trying to predict the future - just without our conscious involvement.
But what about the tingling in the stomach? The feeling of a cold shadow? What about The Body Keeps the Score? Yes. We feel memories in the body. We have these sensations and we have attached stories to them, patterned it in to our bodies, and we feel it. It is a programmed pattern.
The intuitive senses we receive are predictions based on past situations. They are shouts of "making sense" that our brain offers to us. AND, our intuitive senses can be wrong. They are delivering our past to us as present. Including all of those old thoughts, movies, songs we listened to, emails, past boyfriends and side-ways glances, past slights and digs and lost loves.
Just like our brains and our bodies, our intuition is also steeped in our culture, our education and experience, our families, etc.
Our intuition is just as racist as you are - maybe even more than your conscious awareness! Since intuition is often subconscious, it is mired in the implicit bias that might not be at your attention in any moment.
So what can be done?
Keep growing, keep opening up, keep finding new perspectives.
The more that we broaden our experiences and concepts (thank you, Lisa Feldman Barrett), the more you open your mind to new predictions. It is possible to continue shaping and honing your intuition.
We TRUST our intuition because we are NOTICING when we are right about it. The more you notice it, the more you see it. Our intuition is the "barometer" of truth because you are shaping your perception that it works.
The next time you sense there is danger ahead or feel like "the right next step is x, y, z", I'm not saying don't listen to it. I'm not saying DO listen to it.
I'm saying - get a little curious about it.
Could you intuit even more when you start to move outside the box?
The current state of the world has me thinking about experience. How does “experience” look now that we are not traveling to exotic places, or even leaving the house in some cases amidst COVID-19. What does the college experience even mean these days? The lived reality of our Black and brown has been highlighted by the Black Lives Matter movement. Even the Administration through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has put more emphasis on the health care consumer experience in terms of paying our medical providers.
A level down, this theme of experience has been filling my work days as well, as we are trained in our Communication styles, our DiSC framework, how we are perceived by co-workers. Experience is a major tenet of our sexual discrimination and harassment trainings as well as in our Diversity & Inclusion Council’s work.
And then, experience became the focal point of an argument I had with my husband about a week ago.
I have been working on a project for a couple of years – yes, years. And on the day of the argument, I had a meeting with a graphic designer to discuss the details of digitizing my work. I felt so excited to have forward momentum. At last, my project would be birthed to the world. And my husband, understandably, asked me how it went. After a few benign questions, he gave me some unsolicited feedback.
"I don't think the online form is right for your journal. Who is going to download a pdf and print it and then do it?"
I referenced my research about online books and about my target audience and their use of online tools.
"I think you need to push yourself and think bigger," he challenged.
I referenced my research on the cost associated with printing an interactive journal like the one I created. And how self-publishing was really the way to go until I have a following.
Another question, another question, another question. I was not expecting this. I felt like I needed to have answers to all of the questions. And that my answers were not satisfying him. I bit my lower lip and then pressed my molars together to set my jaw. And then my eyes got that old familiar burn and the tears rolled down my cheeks.
And this is when the actual argument started – about my tears.
"Why are you crying?"
As I spoke, as I tried to explain myself, the tears flowed harder. I knew that I was getting to that ugly cry place. And ugh, I was so annoyed. How I wished I could just talk without crying. I felt embarrassed and mad at myself.
And then the rest of the argument that followed is a bit of a jumble in my mind because it had nothing to do with the project or his feedback about it. It had to do with my crying.
The comments about my tears started with: “I feel like your tears don’t match this situation.” And ended with: “Your tears feel like an attack”
My tears made him so angry.
It was basically at this point that we agreed to pause the conversation (a tactic we learned in therapy). I wanted to do some processing. And research. I wanted to come back with reasoning, explanation and proof (in defense of) my crying.
Days later, on Instagram, I saw an image of two white people who were found guilty of a racially motivated crime. And they were crying in the courtroom. The photo was captioned with the bullshit of the tears. Fake tears. White tears. Another podcast I listened to about some woman who posted Dr. Maya Angelo’s words without crediting her was noted as giving a “fake apology.” My husband has accused me of giving fake apologies, too.
Am I the same as those people? Am I just another white Karen out there?
Full disclosure: I am a crier. I cry a lot. At least a couple times a week you will find me in tears. I cry when I am touched by an inspiring story, I cry when I am lonely, I cry when I am overwhelmed, I cry when I feel happiness bubbling in my chest.
During my formative years and into early adulthood, I was labelled "too sensitive" and "melodramatic." On the other side of the coin, I was deemed “harsh” and “painfully honest”, seemingly being too direct in my communication. I armored up for about a decade and only cried in the shower/bathroom where no one would see. I changed how I constructed emails and how I gave feedback. In the last 5 years, I have embraced my tears as being a part of who I am. I chalked it up to being a Highly Sensitive Person and I can't help it.
But is that all bullshit?
My initial research, post-argument, brought me to a Highly Sensitive People website and some articles first. Articles that talk about how some people are just more sensitive than others. Some of us can’t watch (or even read about) violence. These are the stories I have surrounded myself with over the last few years. It’s real, they promise. You are not crazy and you don’t have a diagnosable condition. You are just sensitive. It is your superpower.
But these musings were interrupted by thoughts back to Layla Saad’s work, Me and White Supremacy, and I looked for the journal prompts I had worked through two years ago on white tears & fragility. If you don’t know what I mean by “white tears”, buy Saad’s book (you should buy it anyway).
When people insinuate that I am fragile or meek – or that I would feign weakness in order to win an argument (or get out of one)—it makes me want to fight. How dare someone say that my tears are manipulative?! And I’m old enough to know that if I feel that triggered because of it, there must be a lesson in that.
It brought me back to intent. I didn’t intend for my tears to be an attack on my hubby last Monday night. I flashed to our conversation and I actually said that “I am not intending to make you feel bad. I’m just telling you how I feel.” And I didn’t intend to make him angry. And yet, my tears had an impact on him. He experienced my tears in a negative way.
And then I read this article, from the March 2016 Time Magazine, “The Science of Crying.” It discusses how more recently, scientists believe that crying is about connection to other humans. It is a way to express that one needs support, love and care. This way of communicating can be manipulating others for that support and care.
Makes sense, right? I mean, babies cry because they need something. They are trying to communicate. So perhaps even if I am not conscious of it, I might be trying to communicate. I might be subconsciously intending to receive love and support.
I catalogued my crying history. I do cry when I am mad, sad, overwhelmed, relieved – at times I cry due to fear of abandonment, loss of love or rejection. Did I cry the other night because I wanted my hubby to take it easy on me? Did I cry because I wanted to connect? I cry when things are uncomfortable and when I don’t know what to say. Physically, my throat feels cloudy and clogged, much as it does when I literally “hold back” something I am hesitant to voice. Noticing that physicality is something I'm diving into.
Perhaps my tears are communicative. And that’s where my A ha! Moment struck. Just like when we talk with each other, email, use body language, there is an impact when others’ receive our behaviors. Impact over Intent. Experience wins.
Now, hold on a sec. I know that many of us grew up trying to make others comfortable. When I was a child, I acted as a chameleon. I tried to change my demeanor in order to keep everyone happy. So careful with my words in fact that sometimes that I lost myself.
My husband’s anger triggered by my tears probably doesn’t have to do with me. It likely has to do with his own story he’s told himself over time about tears, and probably specifically women’s tears. I care about his feelings but I don’t have to carry them. I don’t need to be responsible for how he feels. He is responsible for his emotions and what he does with them. But since I care about how my communication “lands” with him... what to do?
As with most things, there is likely a balance between losing yourself completely, changing yourself in order to make others’ comfortable and being a bull in a china shop.
Here is what I propose:
My tears that evening were about a feeling of overwhelm for sure. And now I believe that I started to cry so that we could end the conversation and so that my husband could see I was hurt by his words. I didn’t want any feedback about my project or my process. And I probably could have said that right from the beginning: "I am not looking for feedback." After my bout of crying, my hubby reminded me that I am loved. That he is here to support me - and also to challenge me in order to help me grow. And that is exactly what I wanted to hear.
My tears got me exactly what I wanted that evening. And this makes me squirm.
You gotta feel it to heal it.