Mindfulness- the utter misery of being awake

There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

Leonard Cohen

Next to me Steve rolls over to bury his good ear in the pillow. He clutches the comforter and pulls it to his face to better create a cocoon.

He is not a morning person.

I have been awake for an hour but just like my husband I am not quite conscious. Despite weeks of morning meditation my first instinct is still to hit the mute button.

I have my phone in my hand flipping through the color coded screens in an attempt to distract myself from me. Earlier this year I removed candy crush in all of its incarnations in an effort to tune in rather than tune out. I loaded Duolingo and TED, I re-upped my subscription to Lumosity and figured that upgrading my apps would turn mindlessness into mindfulness. So far that has not proven true.

I have chronic shoulder pain. Most of the time I brace against it, hold my breath and create tightness from head to toe. There are some magical moments when I accept the pinch. When I breathe into it and allow myself to notice the feelings in full force. This always helps ease the pain. When I think I am protecting myself by ignoring what is happening in my body in fact I am doing the opposite, giving the pain the power.

Most of the day I rush through things to get to the next step. I brush my teeth for not quite the two recommended minutes because who has the patience for that. I tug up the bed covers too close to the pillows then too far to the foot and then back again like that time in 8th grade when I cut my own bangs.

I scurry down the stairs to make breakfast and race to unload the dishwasher before the water for my tea boils. I always lose. Always. And start my day as a labelled loser. Then I cram things into my back pack and speed walk to the coffee shop where I open my computer. And so it goes from there one step to the next rushing to nowhere from nothing all in an attempt to ignore whatever pain may be beneath my skin.

Just like Steve I create a cocoon, buffering myself from thoughts that might be painful and the misery of being awake.

But really it is only the crack in things that lets the light in.

So yesterday I took my time getting ready for my mammogram. I figured if I could stay in the moment while my boobs were being smooshed I really could be present for anything. I appreciated the warmed puke pink gown. I joked with my fellow waiting room lady about wearing the same outfit. I noticed how clean the hallway was and made myself a peppermint tea.

In the room I kept my breathing even as my armpit was impaled by a cold plastic shelf and my breast was flattened into a crepe. Because those are even skinnier than pancakes. Then it was over and I was walking home uphill in the 74 degree sun. I walked slowly to avoid losing my breath.

It is not so scary going slowly.

This morning I think back on my leisurely walk in the sunshine. Next to me Steve rolls over and opens his eyes just a bit and lets the light shine in.

Wondering what got me motivated to stay in the moment?

7 minutes in presence, a story of first time meditation

This is the second day of my mindfulness training. I am practicing Awareness (capital intended), with a gentle pushing away of thoughts of the past, future or judgment. In the past I have tried to integrate meditation and yoga into my life but I have not managed to. It seems I am not able to stick with this practice. I know I will have quit this effort by tomorrow. Now I will gently push those sentences aside and focus on my healing breathe. What’s that smell? Dog fart?

I begin with three sun salutations. I spread my toes and felt the floor supporting me and pushed aside thoughts of what the grit on my mat might be. It is of no consequence in this moment. I lift my arms to the sky with a deep inhale and fold close against my legs with an exhale. And a shriek. The small dog jumped up and grabbed my middle finger in his mouth like his newest chew toy. I knew what I could do with my middle finger. No time for that in this moment though. Inhale jump to plank. Or is it exhale. Wait. I am not breathing trying to figure out my breath. I have been in plank too long. I suck at sun salutation. No, I do not suck, I have opportunity to learn and grow. But that learning will be in the future and I am in the present so I guess I shouldn’t be thinking that now. Wait. No “shoulds”. Argh. No judgement about should. Double argh no “nos”. Forget it.

Exhale press to downward facing dog. As I hold for five cycles of breathe the little beastie comes below me and stretches into his own down dog. As he looks up at me I felt a connection between the two of us and the power (but a gentle power) of my yoga practice. He too must feel a connection because he yelps right in my face. Is dog yelping in down dog on an inhale or an exhale? I can’t figure it out. With each salutation he joins me in down dog first stretching then barking more and more loudly. As he is always in the moment I decide he can be my guide. And he decides to bite my hair. Tomorrow I will wear a hair tie. Shit. I shouldn’t be planning for tomorrow. Fuck. I shouldn’t say shit.

Now it is time for meditation practice. I will make time for myself, to nourish myself and create more spaciousness for the activities of my day. As I take a comfortable seated position the dog decides my lap will be a spacious spot for the activities of his day. Which currently include chewing in a sloppy yet chalk grating way on his dog bone. This bone is made up of pressed animal parts and smells like urea as he makes progress on its length. It also creates a wet gooeyness with has the texture of bread dough if bread dough was made up of dead animal pee.

Enough of that. I will need to find a more accepting word than enough. Tomorrow.

I gently set aside those thoughts and celebrate the opportunity he is offering me. I can practice letting go of the sound of his chewing, the smell of urea , and the feeling of him squirming on my lap to gain a better position in which to massacre his bone. This is excellent. I wonder if I am allowed positive judgment. I imagine not. Acceleration is not simply forward. There is negative acceleration as well. It is that way with judgement. I will let go of judgement. I will drop it like a hot coal. I will try not to burn my rug.

I listen to the woman’s voice on my Mindfulness app and let her lead me into a relaxed but alert state. I wonder if she had trouble on dates, if the sound of her soothing voice puts her partner in a trance. Maybe all she can talk about is breathing. If she were soothing and boring would she even have any friends? Well damnit I will be her friend. I will allow her to talk to me about acceptance and whatever else she wants. I will welcome it and make space for it. I will even pay her five dollars a month to do so. So quickly into our new relationship see tells me she would see me tomorrow and leaves me with the closing bell.

It is time for me to go at it alone. I am enough for myself. Everything that I need is already inside me. Except maybe my breakfast. But that is for later.   I search my phone for the timer app forgetting ONCE AGAIN that it was right at the bottom of the screen hiding under the name “clock”.  So tricky. I set it to 15 minutes. Then dial it back to 12. Then 8. Then because I like odd numbers I settled at 7 minutes. 7 minutes of presence.

I am still in a comfortable seated position albeit with one numb leg. I figure this gives me a leg up on ignoring the dog’s squirming because I can only half feel him. I gently bring my attention to my breathe and just as gently bring my attention from the idea that this could become a blog post. Could it be funny? Can someone at peace with themselves be funny? Shit. I am on breathe number 21. The practice is to reset at 10. 22. Why can’t I stop this? 25. OK. 1. My breath is so smooth. It is hear to support me just like the ground beneath my legs. Which I am totally not thinking about while I should be concentrating on my breath. Should. Shouldn’t this be over by now? Trust yourself. I tell me. The session will end at exactly the right time. But…surely this has been too long. I must not have started the Timer. I’ll just take a peek. Instead I gently bring my attention back to my breathe. 14, 15. No, no. 1. 2. Ahh…I am no longer worried about whether or not the timer is on. I can notice and set aside my worry. I am great at this. I can stay here all day. I could stay here forever. I might have reached enlightenment and freedom. Has anyone every done this so quickly? Did I win meditation?

I open one eye to check the timer. It is counting down. 2:17 2:16. So wait…I have been sitting here for less than five minutes? Maybe I should stop for now. As my soothing friend tells me my breath will be with me always. I can tune into it at any moment.

Clearly a dog bone is needed for meditation So in this moment I bend over my lap and the dog stretching my head forward towards the earth that gives us life. And rest my forehead directly on the cold wet dog bone.

Which I not so gently push away.

How to Turn Guilt Into Gratitude

Gratitude changed to guilt
It is never too late to turn guilt into gratitude

Trying to turn Guilt into Gratitude…

It was a crushing news day. I read about a friends’ child dying. I heard testimony about ISIS and mustard gas. I learned that a close acquaintance had lung cancer. I realized that a colleague had enough money problems to have to abandon her craft. I watched a video of a brutal racially motivated crime and saw a photo of a man killing cats with a smile. I listened to Latino mayors talk about their cities being swallowed by the sea. Amongst it all are the testimonials of other Americans who think a man who spews hate should be our next president.

My response to the above?


I wrote a post about NAPPING. Of all of the carefree privileged topics on the planet napping may top them all.

But to react with guilt? 

It helps no one and changes nothing. I feel guilty just thinking about the inefficacy of my response

I have researched guilt in the past and come to some clinical conclusions. None of which matter if I can’t practice flipping the coin of guilt to the shinier side of gratitude.

Instead of guilt I will practice being grateful. I appreciate my health and relative wealth,  liberties that let me be liberal, a skin color that allows me to work within the establishment if I choose. I am grateful to be able to support organizations and individuals that work to create equality. I notice science and policy that is slowly beginning to shift towards taking care of the planet and I choose advocate for these changes.

I can stop napping and wake up to our flawed world and know that things can change in a second for the worse. Which means they can change for the better as well.  

I can celebrate that.


What do you do with your guilt? What gratitude can you offer today.