Julia Roberts Ruined Meditation.

I bought some mala beads a little while ago on Amazon. Where else? I am too anxious to shop for such a product in person; God forbid someone ask me about what I’m looking for. But anyway, I shopped in my PJs, received them the other day, and I really love them.

The beads are beautiful white gemstone marbled with grey streaks called white howlite (fun fact: that trendy turquoise stone necklace you got on the cheap? It’s probably howlite that’s been dyed blue.) It has lovely silvery marker beads and a clean white tassel. I chose it out of all of the colour options because I thought they were like, really pretty.

I like to drape them nonchalantly on the decorative elephant in my office.

After I bought the necklace, I decided I should look into what the metaphysical healing qualities of this stone are (even though, to be honest, I don’t buy into that stuff). Naturally, I planned to hand-pick those attributes that best align with my situation, thus justifying and crediting some value to my purchase. Kind of the way a fortune teller does it.

Oddly enough, all of the websites I looked at classified it in the same way: howlite is used to reduce anxiety and tension, and to help bring mental awareness.

Well. I guess I chose the right stone! Although, I suspect that many other stones are claimed to have similar qualities. But let’s pretend for a moment that howlite is the only one that does, so I can pretend it facilitates my spiritual journey and the beads were worth the money.

To be perfectly honest, though, the reason I bought my mala beads was because I am struggling with meditation. I do believe in meditation, and I think it can help me if I can learn to do it.

But the truth is, it really intimidates me. It sounds lovely and relaxing and enlightening, but when it comes down to it, I’d really prefer to re-watch Party of Five and have snacks.

I tell myself again and again that I can find 5 minutes to meditate. Especially since I have so much time on my hands right now. I plan on doing it every day, but inevitably end up half-assing it as I lay in bed at night, and end up just falling asleep.

When I do meditate, I sit there thinking about the movie/book Eat Pray Love. Remember that scene when Julia Roberts is trying to meditate, but all she can think about is decorating her meditation room back home? I think about that scene, then about my own meditation room. Then I think about how ridiculous it is that I’m thinking about a movie scene and projecting myself into it. Do I even want or need a meditation room? I start to think about pretty the meditation zafus that Chapters was selling last year – they were like $75, though. I wonder what I could find online? Oh jeez here I go again, thinking I’m meditationy enough to spend money on a pillow, let alone meditation room. Well if Julia Roberts can, then I can too!

I have not been able to work up to more than a couple of minutes of meditation, all because of Julia Roberts.

Desperate to find something helpful tips, I started reading up on the subject on Pinterest, as we do, and noticed a trend: mala beads. I had no idea what they were. I thought they had something to do with yoga. I dunno, maybe they’re something hippies make while they’re on acid trips.

But reading into it, mala beads are actually a legitimate meditation tool that I thought could help me. They are not only used to help you count the times you repeat your mantra, but the also are used as a physical, tangible meditation guide.

I need a guide.

And not the type who tells me via YouTube to imagine that my body is a melting ice cube.

You can use mala beads to count as you recite your mantra (you repeat it 108 times – once per bead) by moving through the beads one by one. But more simply, and perhaps more importantly, they act as an uncomplicated reminder of what it is you are doing: Meditating.

Some of us are able to “gently return our attention back to our breath,” but I am not really one of them. I start to think too much about how my breath feels and whether it feels too cold in my sinus cavity or other irritating feelings. Trust me to find something wrong with anything.

But my mala beads? They are smooth, cool, and hard. There is a gentle weight to them. There isn’t much more to the sensory experience I have when I hold them. They are just there. And I am able to gently usher my mind back to them quite easily.

So I just hold them. I might try reciting a mantra, since that’s actually pretty easy for me (“money……money…..money….”), but I have come to appreciate them for the simple object they are. I just hold them, think about what they’re meant for (in addition to the fact that they’re said to help calm anxiety), and I can just be.

I totally recommend trying some.

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Let’s Chat.

My boss never did text me back. But that’s okay.

Yes! Really! I’m okay with it.

I’ve done a lot of thinking about it – but it’s been good, constructive thinking. Open-hearted thinking.

I trust myself. I’ve made choices to tend to my own well-being, and to deepen my understanding of myself in this past month. It’s not happening quickly, but it’s happening. I’m a work in progress (always will be), and feel confident that I am making steady strides in reworking the way I think.

It’s actually quite exciting, when I consider this. It makes me smile.

PS my front yard is also making me smile.

I admit that when I’m in the midst of uncomfortable emotions, I don’t immediately think properly. I need to groom myself to take a breath and not act until I have a clear perspective on things. A true perspective.

Other people’s opinions are based on their own experiences, their own worlds. Not mine. They will never see things exactly as I do. That’s impossible. It’s a standard we often put people to – craving and requiring empathy of others. Sometimes we get it, but it needs to come naturally from that person. In a work situation, there are so many other factors also at play that it adds another layer of complexity to situations.

I cannot rely on other people’s opinions in order to move forward with my own decision making. I can’t serve myself that way.

So, my boss didn’t text me back.

But it’s not so simple. One, I know he is out of town. Two, he gets hundreds of communications every day. I am not the centre of his universe. And third, probably most importantly, I could have worded my text much differently.

I wrote my text when I wasn’t feeling sound in my decision. I gave him a huge burden in my text message: I said I wasn’t about to make a decision without his insight. I put so much weight on his shoulders, and didn’t even offer up what I was considering.

That’s a lot to deal with, and could even get someone on the defensive. Maybe it did, maybe it didn’t – but I think that my text was too much for him to deal with when he didn’t receive it. I added so much emotion – a ‘whoa is me’ aspect that could be interpreted as manipulative. Like I was only adding it to get his sympathy, and to get my way. While I wasn’t trying to be manipulative, I don’t think it was that far off.  That’s why he (undoubtedly) set it aside to consider another day.

Today (two days later), I wrote him again. This time, I actually came 50%. I explained my plan for my return to work, and asked him for his thoughts. I didn’t cloud it with my reasons or make him feel like he’d be responsible for my emotional well-being. Yes, I want to come across as human, and not a robot, but guess who is the only person who is able to tend my well-being? Me. No one else.

He response was immediate.

He apologized for not replying right away, and asked if we could have a call tomorrow. Compromise.

That’s fine – it’s what I was open to and what I communicated to him. It’s not surprising, and it’s not the end of the world that he didn’t immediately agree to my suggestion.

I feel really good right now. I feel open, I feel at peace, and I feel in control of my own thoughts and emotions.

Tomorrow, I will likely seize up for a moment when my phone rings. I know I will (I mean, that happens when anyone calls me – even a loved one). But I will take a deep breath, set my shoulders back, smile, and exhale the fear that might show up.

Then I will have a chat with my boss.

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Learning Curve.

I’ve been trying for years to attack my anxiety, instead of it attacking me, without a whole lot of success.

The success I have had is linked to calming myself during a panic attack and not allowing it to completely take over. I mentioned in an earlier post that I’m quite good at keeping things together, but that’s because I’ve had two decades of practice.

When panic starts to boil, I know the things I need to do to not pass out or totally lose my shit. I need to be alone, and I need to breathe. Those are the two main objectives, and they aren’t too overwhelming. I can remember those. They’ve become second nature. I can stamp out attacks before they come full tilt, which is very, very helpful in leading a regular adult life.

So I’m pretty okay when it comes to like 60% of my attacks.

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See? I’m fine.

The remaining 40% of my attacks? I fall victim to them. And since I still have attacks despite medicine and my past therapy sessions, it means I do need to work on myself.

I need to figure my shit out.

In the past, I’ve spent time with more run-of-the-mill, scientific psychologists. They tend to remind me that anxiety is a caveman response, which I do believe. Our minds have not changed as quickly and as drastically as we have – our evolution has not kept up with our discoveries. Nowadays, we are at the top of the food chain and rarely need to run away from hungry predators or defend our homes the way we did thousands of years ago. Back then, we needed that response to escape, say, a hungry bear. Our adrenaline rushed, our heart beat fast, we zeroed in and focussed on the object of our stress, and either ran or fought. Even our digestion slowed because we needed that energy elsewhere. It saved us.

We needed the fight or flight response, we used it, and then when it was over, it disappeared. The danger was gone, and it’s in part because our response did its job. But the society we’ve created and scientific achievements have eliminated a true need for the fight or flight response. Now, it turns into a disorder.

When we feel unsafe, even for stupid present day reasons (like having to meet new people), our fight or flight response is still hardwired into our brains and comes into play. Even though it’s not exactly that useful. That tunnel vision and racing heart aren’t helping us, it’s making us worse. There’s no where for that energy to go, especially when you’re strapped to a desk, or in the grocery store, or anywhere in public. We can’t run and we can’t fight. It’s all in our heads.

But I know all of this. I understand that my reactions are just evolutionary responses. I know my triggers. I know where my anxiety came from. I have all of the answers.

I needed to see someone who could give me a new approach. And I think I’ve found her.

I’ve been seeing a psychologist who is a little more progressive when it comes to dealing with panic and anxiety.  She has her PhD, so I trust her, and she’s not suggesting that I try and deal with my issues with crystals and Himalayan salt lamps.

Not that there’s anything wrong with those avenues, but they just aren’t for me.

But she’s got some really good ways of dealing with my own mind, and that’s by shifting my Ego out of the way. My Ego, I’ve discovered, is taking centre stage and ruining everything. Because I let him do it.

The single most important thing I’ve learned so far is to detach myself from my anxiety. It’s been kind of a game changer for me. Anxiety is not ME. It’s like a really bad accessory to my Self.

Yes, that’s a capital S “Self”. I’m getting into that Buddhist, yoga, meditation-y kinda stuff. But it makes so much sense. And it’s so beautiful.

My Ego and my Self are very different. My Ego is a maniac who thinks everything is black and white. Good or bad. He’s an extremist. He is the one who chatters on and on in my brain about all of the worst case scenarios, and can’t just BE. He is the worst.

My Self is my conscious self. She is my awareness. She just chills and observes and I equate her with love. She is Me.

Think about it for a moment.

Say something in your head. Say “I can’t shut up”. Say those words in your mind.

You ‘heard’ it, didn’t you? That was your Ego. It wasn’t you. You are the one who heard it, so you aren’t the one who said it.

The first step to realizing this stuff is just to listen and become aware of that chattering voice in your head. Your Ego is the one who responds to ev-er-y-thing out there, and makes flip-flopping judgments in regard to pretty much everything. He’s full of opinions and responses. Just listen to him rattle on:

“Okay, John didn’t text me back. He must be angry with him. I know he’s probably just busy, but, no, I mean he looked at me kind of funny yesterday so many he’s pissed. He’s definitely angry. It must have been something I said… what was it, what was it…. Who knows. John is like everyone else in my life. He doesn’t truly love me anyway, so I shouldn’t even care because….”

I mean, isn’t that how our minds tend to go when you’re anxious and come to the worst conclusions?

The key to starting on this journey is to just notice it. Don’t do anything, don’t try anything, and don’t think too much into it. Just notice that voice rambling on about everything. You’ll start to notice, like I have, that it’s there. And he just has a stupid opinion on everything. It’s almost never true – it’s almost always a distorted perception. A leap to conclusions based on almost no facts.

I am by no means an expert on this stuff. I am a beginner. But I do strongly believe that this might be a major step in the right direction for me. Maybe it’s the key to getting better, and to handling stress better in the future.

My learning will be ongoing. I don’t think it will ever end. I don’t think I’ll turn into the Dalai Lama any time soon, or ever. But I think I might be able to tap into a few things that just might help me perceive life a little differently.

Hopefully my ENORMOUS fan base won’t mind reading about it from time to time 😉

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