Tag Archives: meditation

Gratitude on repeat

Some people just seem to get it. They easily recognize the things that don’t serve them and they adjust their energy toward things that do.

I have a theory that this starts at birth. If you have to spend a lot of time crying and screeching for attention from caregivers who mostly only meet your basic physical needs, you grow up seeking that deeper connection everywhere. It’s a built-in-at-birth negative pattern. And it can take a lifetime to change.

I’ve been recognizing it more and more in my life since, oh, let’s see, I spread my wings, flew the family coop and moved out on my own some twenty odd years ago. And most days, I feel no closer to changing that negative pattern than I did on those first few lonely nights in my new apartment.

But then two very tiny things happened recently. The first: my sister told me she was no longer engaging in a seemingly small behaviour that has kept her locked in negative energy. A lightbulb went off in my head shining light on that exact behaviour in me. Now that I recognized it, it was time to let it go.

The second: I came across a new gratitude affirmation meditation one morning (not unusual for me because I’m always searching for different meditation audio tracks that help me with my daily experience) and it started with this:

Our thoughts create our world.

That’s it. That’s the second tiny thing. It seemed inconsequential. I’ve heard this before in a variety of different forms, but it never really landed with me. But this time, it was different. It was like all the writing and reading and meditating about creating a more positive life experience and trying to find a way out of a negative behaviour that had recently been highlighted in me all culminated in those five words: Our thoughts create our world.

I’ve been getting better at creating that positive energy on the cushion and for the first hour or so off the cushion each morning, but then life takes over and I forget or get bogged down and don’t do the work of raising my positive energy levels. I now know that it’s not that I forget or get too busy to do the action of the intentions I’ve set. It’s because my brain has spent most of its existence bathed in negative energy.

Anxiety is my brain’s default setting. So I’m not forgetting to practice my positive intentions, I’m just not wired for it. The deep grooves that have been carved into my brain since childhood are the trails where anxiety runs. I have to pave over them with positive thoughts and create new paths. My thoughts create my world.

But how to change the thoughts? I’m always looking for that one thing that I can do to be better and to raise little humans who start from a better place, but I’ve always taken on too much, tried too many different things at once to get better, and I’ve never settled on any one thing that works. (There a lot of things I do in combination, but what’s the anchor? What’s the one thing that glues it all together? It’s easier for a brain that’s trying to change to have one thing to focus on. If you’ve never exercised before, you don’t start the most complicated exercise regimen available. You start by putting on your running shoes and going for a walk. Same with re-wiring the brain.)

Human brains are conditioned to function in a repeated way. So, if you worry too much about bad outcomes, you are subconsciously re-wiring your brain to process negative information only. But, the brain cannot focus on positive and negative information at the same time. So, if you practice gratitude constantly, about every little thing (and there’s a lot to be grateful for, so you won’t run out of things), you will re-wire your brain to process positive information and thus raise your positive energy level.

That’s what I discovered from those two tiny things:

  1. I have a negative behaviour pattern that needs to be changed.
  2. My thoughts create my world, so my thoughts need to be positive.

What one thing can I get my brain to do that simultaneously raises positive energy and prevents me from thinking negatively? Gratitude.

But what if everything is going wrong in life and there is nothing to be grateful for? It sometimes feels like that. But I know now that it’s only because my brain is wired to look for the negative and that wiring is dug in deep. It will take major excavating to dig it out and rewire, but it starts with gratitude.

Gratitude for tiny things: I am thankful I opened my eyes this morning (this is harder to be grateful for on really bad days). I am thankful for my pillow. I am thankful for the fan on hot summer nights. I am thankful I can walk. I am thankful for the breath that fills my lungs at this moment. I am thankful for flyers in my mailbox because it gives me something to browse while I eat lunch. I am thankful for my mostly unicolour wardrobe because I don’t have to think about what to match stuff with.

You get the idea. Gratitude on repeat. Aloud or silently. Re-wiring in progress.

All over the map

It’s #BikeMonth and I got back on my bike today.

Took a short ride (just over 4 km); nothing extreme; just around the ‘hood in no particular direction. Up some streets, down others. Around the block several times. On some new streets. Pretty much all over the map, which is how I’ve been feeling lately.

At a few tougher points in my ride, I drew on mindfulness and my meditation practice to sit with the exhaustion and ache in my legs (I’m really out of shape).

On the cushion, I get the concept of sitting with uncomfortable emotions. I haven’t really been able to transfer that to a practice off the cushion. I haven’t tried very hard.

But this morning, I got it. Rather than wishing the ride would be over soon or trying to talk myself out of stopping for a rest, I went down yet another street, taking me farther from home knowing that I was going to be more tired AND that I could do it because I wasn’t afraid of the discomfort.

It was great to get back on my bike. The ride was good. But what I discovered about myself and how my meditation practice translates to life was better.

It is my goal to do this every day from now until the end of June. (I’m not even thinking beyond June 30 at this point. It’s self-defeating.)

Here’s to more revelations on my bike.

P.S. I’m logging my rides at bikemonth.ca. It’s fun to see my progress and be part of a group doing the same thing.

Just start

Staring at a blank page is a scary thing. Lately, thinking of even opening a blank page is scary. Why is that?

Writing is hard, says the voice in my head.

What goes on inside the mind on those days (weeks, months) when nothing seems to connect? What is the mind seeking? What does the mind fear? What prevents the connections of creativity from coming together?

It is that the mind is seeking that is the problem. Stop seeking and just write.

Positive thinking is helpful. Don’t get stuck in a rut in the first place is also helpful. But what if I can’t avoid it?

What if the ideas aren’t flowing when I sit down to write? What if the fear engulfs me and I can barely breathe? What if just remembering all those techniques that I know will help is what the mind is struggling with?

What if you just start anyway?

Ha! If you can just start anyway, you’re a step ahead of me. But wait, I did just start. I’m writing right now.

So it is the negative thoughts that hold me back? If I had just thought positively about my experience of writing, if I had just let myself feel the joy I get from writing, I would have started so much earlier? Is that how it works? Nah. Too simple. I’ve been fighting this for weeks.

Develop a habit, then.

Develop a habit? Like, get up 10 minutes earlier every morning and open my notebook and take my pen in hand and put it on the page and just let the words flow out of me whatever they are?

Yes. Don’t write when you have something to say. Don’t wait for an idea or a reason to write. And don’t expect to share it or publish it. Just write because you like to write.

But what if I want to share it? What if my aim is to have a blog filled with interesting and witty pieces that others enjoy reading?

That will come.

What if it doesn’t?

Do you think not writing will give you the result you’re seeking?

No, obviously. But…

‘What ifs’ and ‘buts’ are your enemy. Name them. Invite them in and sit with them. They will reveal themselves to you as the very demons that hold you back and keep you down. You will not enjoy their company for long. When you have had enough of them, ask them politely to leave. They have no place here. You are too busy writing.

So, I should meditate on this? Spend some time in quiet reflection, sitting with my demons, letting them in, experiencing their company so that I can know them?


But that’s as hard as writing. I sit every morning and the most I’ve accomplished is a series of loving kindness meditations to help like myself better.

That’s a start. It’s important to like yourself. But you’re listening to someone else tell you how to like yourself. Have you sat in silence and listened for your voice?

Do you mean, have I listened for you? Who are you?

I am you.

Then why are you so calm? Why aren’t you always freaking out about everything that needs to get done and all the time on this earth that you’re wasting because you can’t get out of your own way?

I live in a different world. I am internal. You, I really, have crafted a world where I exist as a writer. Where I meditate daily and for long stretches until I am ready to get off the cushion, where I write uninterrupted and with passion whenever I feel like writing, which is often. This is a world where I’m not torn in different directions by outside forces. I live in a world where everything is perfectly aligned with my goals to create.

That sounds wonderful. Can I come in?

No. You are us in the external world. You have competing priorities and many other benefits in your world: family, friends, work, entertainment, nature, beauty. Do not wish to leave those things. They are inspiring.

But all that distraction kills my writing.

No, it doesn’t. You must look at it as inspiring. You have seen this before. You have connected two ideas in a book you have read with an article you found online and it inspired you to write for hours. Do you remember?

Yes, that was a creativity charged moment. I felt so alive!

You can feel that again. But you must first sit quietly with why you are not doing that. I understand you’re busy. That’s why I suggested the writing habit. It’s boring and routine, but necessary when you live out there.

You’re right. Of course you are. Sounds like you have time to figure these things out. I wish I did.

You will figure it out as you write. Just start.

The tsunami off the coast

For about three weeks now, I’ve been feeling the slight rumblings of what I think will be something terrible.

It’s like the ground is shaking ever so slightly, almost imperceptibly and very deep down.

I can feel the tilt in my world; not noticeable enough for anyone else to feel it. No one is asking if I’m OK. But I know it’s coming.

It’s far off the coast right now, roiling and boiling in its darkness. It’s deep; it’s dark; it will be all-encompassing when it comes. It will move things that I have put in place and wash away things that I need to have. It will probably flatten me and drag me around and injure me and suck me under.

It starts small. A forgotten task on a to-do list. A chore that I keep putting off. Later mornings, sleepless nights. Ignored reminders and skipped meditations. More junk food and less good food.

The bad habits creep back. The good habits start to slide. I spend more time angry and negative and less time upbeat and hopeful.

I can tell it’s coming by the books I choose to read: Atomic Habits by James Clear, Everything is F*cked: A Book About Hope by Mark Manson. I’m trying to ward off the storm. I’m trying to find my way back inland before the tidal wave hits the beach. I’m not succeeding.

I’m buried up to my knees in thick, wet sand and every step is a full-body effort. The fear that I won’t make it to high ground in time slows me down even more. It soaks through my brain like the spray from the ever more violent ocean. The tectonic plates that I can’t see, the ones that form a stable foundation for my ocean, are starting to shift and push against each other. They come alive in revolt because I’ve not been doing what I promised to do. I’ve not been building on my solid foundation. I’ve been tired and weak and whiny. I’ve been letting my foundation slip. And the slipping will cause a tsunami.

I see small breaks in the clouds as rays of sun shine on the dark ocean. They brighten those spots and I feel that if I can just get to them and bask in the sun for a bit, I can help calm the ocean before the tsunami builds way out there and crashes over me, dragging me around and tearing me away from solid ground.

The tsunami is coming.

But the tsunami can be calmed.

I will meditate every morning for at least 10 minutes right after I workout.

I will write one page every morning before I log in to my computer.

I will drink green or herbal tea instead of coffee after I have one coffee each day.

I will snack on fruits and veggies each day.

I can calm the tsunami.