A month of love cultivation

Books, Life, Thoughts and Opinions

Almost exactly one month ago I started an experiment where I would do metta (AKA lovingkindness) meditation three days a week and see what would happen.

During the month I also read the book: “Love 2.0” (the one that is discussed in the article I link to in my original blog post). I also discovered the author’s “Happify” iPhone app (and website) and have gone through some of the tracks.

When I started the experiment I was at the tail end of a pretty bad depression and decided that lovingkindness meditation 3 days a week certainly couldn’t hurt! So how do I feel now, a month later? I can tell you that I feel much happier. I am not sure if it is the result of doing the meditation or simply my brain chemistry (maybe it’s both) but I feel much happier. I think that what is happening is I am making new neural pathways in my brain that are causing me to feel positive emotions rather than negative emotions. In my experience, due to my issues with depression,  the first emotion to arise for me in a situation is negative.  It took a long time to  be able to take a step back and realize this was happening. When I was finally able to take a step back and understand what was happening it made me feel even more miserable about myself and I wondered if I would ever be able to have a different response.

So in the past month I feel like this practice has been a tool for me to rewire my brain. I am not saying I’m all sunshine and roses (my husband and verify this with you 😉 ) but I do notice that more positive feelings are bubbling up to the surface before the negative ones.

I am also feeling loved. This may sound weird to you, but feeling loved has been difficult for me. Mostly because I have had a hard time loving myself. But I am starting to feel like I am loved an appreciated, and that is a wonderful feeling.

In the book, Barbara Frederickson talks about love, physiologically,  being an emotion that you feel in micro-moments. You have these moments with your partner the most, and with your family, and children if you have them. But you can also have these moments with anyone. Physiologically your body doesn’t really know the difference. So her idea is to cultivate this feeling of love toward all beings, not just the most important people in your life. She proposes that the more micro-moments of love you experience, the happier you will be. So as I’ve been practicing metta meditation I have also been trying to have those moments with others. As I experience them I feel like the best way to describe them is as  moments of kindness. Indeed, being kinder throughout the day has made me feel happier.

When I was going through my depression I decided that I needed a break from Facebook. I do this a lot when I am depressed. I feel like Facebook takes a lot out of me and when I am in that state I need to limit myself to the bare minimum of things that I can do – and sometimes Facebook isn’t one of those things. Instead of completely cutting myself off I limited my time there. I only checked in a couple of times a day. I found this to be a good happy medium for me. I could still keep up with my friends but I was missing a lot of the drama and other things that bug me about the website. While I was on my semi break, and while I was reading Love 2.0, I realized some things about social media that is helping me understand my weird feelings toward Facebook. Frederickson, in her studies, suggests that this physiological feeling of love can only happen face to face because there is something that takes place in the physical realm for this to take place. I am not sure if I agree with this, and I feel like anyone who has cultivated online friendships would understand my disagreement. I certainly have felt connection with my distant friends. However, I  am wondering if this physiological connection has something to do with my feeling like I need to take a break from social media when I am in a depressed state. I am wondering if I am just not able to fully get what I need from the online world and because I am not “filling the void” so to speak, it becomes this circle of depression and unfulfillment. I guess sometimes I need real hugs.

Just some thoughts. Thanks for indulging me. 🙂 And if you have read this far – wow. Thank you! ❤ 🙂

 

Aunt Dee can f*ck off

Life

So I have been writing down my dreams this past couple of weeks and it’s been both fun and enlightening, as well as helpful for my mental health. It’s been fun to interpret the meaning of them (it gives my brain something constructive to do) and it’s been very amusing to see how my brain uses metaphor for things in my waking life. It’s weird, actually. Things that seem just weird in my dream actually turn out to have some pretty solid meaning, and sometimes the meaning is very far from being obvious.

Well. Last night I had a visitation from Aunt Dee  in my dream.

I dreamed I was in a basement living room with my family and we were listening to music. It was really nice. In real life this is something that we have done all of my life, and when I was a kid it would sometimes turn into an impromptu dance party! I have very fond memories of these times. So I was listening to records with my family, having a nice time, when this bitchy woman walks in the door uninvited, walks across the room, and turns down the music. I couldn’t fucking believe how rude she was. I was speechless. My mom asked her, “Can I help you?” And she bitchily says she is turning down the music. And then my mom recognizes her as someone she is friendly with and they chat. All the while I am getting pissed off at this rude woman. At some point in my dream she yells at me and I try yelling back and I don’t have a voice. This is a common theme in my nightmares. I try to scream and nothing comes out. And it happened in last night’s dream as well. Eventually, after more stuff happens, she decides to leave. She walks up and picks up her bag and gives me a dirty look. I flip her off, tell her to fuck off, and tell her that she is a horrible human being. And when I say it there is no guilt because it is the truth.

When I woke up i almost didn’t write down the dream because I was thinking that it was just my brain being weird. But I wrote it down anyway, and then I let it sit in my subconscious. Eventually I realized that this bitchy woman in my dream was depression, or “Aunt Dee” as this blog post describes it (btw, really great advice in that link if you have to deal with depression).

This makes me happy because in my dream I tell off depression and tell it to fuck off, which makes me feel empowered. I feel like there is some semblance of control there, that I don’t have to let depression push me around.

And I woke up this morning deciding not to let it push me around. I have recognized it for what it is, and I am going to take care of myself and give my self a little bit of compassion. So there.

Suck it, Aunt Dee.

On the kindness of friends

Life

  
I have to take a moment and awknowlege this kindness that was done for me by a friend, anonymously. It touched me deeply and I can’t let it pass by.

Saturday evening I came home from work and found this in the mail for me.  One of my friends ordered it for me and sent it to me anonymously. It is a zine from a woman in Austrailia and it is fucking amazing. It’s subject is self-care and it is exactly what I needed at the moment as I’ve been working through a little bout of depression. When I opened it and realized what it was I sat on the couch and cried as I was looking through it. I ugly cried. I was so beyond touched. I was touched that someone thought to order this for me. I was touched that there is a beautiful soul living on this Earth that (hand) made this zine for people going through a hard time. And the idea that a friend sent this anonymously is a huge lesson for me as well – that they left the ego out of it completely. It’s a lesson I really need to learn at the moment. 
Thank you, kind, thoughtful friend. Thank You, thank you, thank you.   

That time I connected with a slug

Life

A few weeks ago I was cleaning house and found myself staring down at a slug who’d found it’s way under the kitchen sink. My first reaction was “EEEEK!” And I frantically thought about how I could kill it. I realized, when the initial panic wore off, that I didn’t want to kill it.  I looked at this gentle creature and realized that it was actually quite sweet and graceful and peaceful. I decided to instead take it outside. As I scooped it up onto a piece of paper I felt a connection to this creature. I set it free outside the front door and telepathically wished it well.

A few nights ago I had a dream about a cat. I don’t own a cat (or am not owned by a cat). But in this dream I had a cat. I was in some kind of building with lots of doorways and hallways and I was standing in a doorway talking to a friend. We were discussing whether or not my cat would cross the threshold of the doorway at a certain time. My friend didn’t think my cat would and I told him that my cat would -because he always crosses the threshold at that specific time everyday without fail. And sure enough, my cat crossed the threshold at the exact time that I said he would. When he did I felt this profound sense of happiness. I scooped up the cat and snuggled him against me, feeling and hearing the soothing sound if its purr. In my dream this felt like the essence of love. (Actually, in waking  life this feels like the essence of love).

The next morning I woke up and, half asleep, I walked into the kitchen and turned on the light and started tidying up a bit before my coffee. I went to get something out of the cupboard under the sink and there was another slug. When I stared at the slug I experienced the same feeling of connection that I had for the cat in my dream.

I have been thinking a lot lately about connection. I don’t know where I read it but someone recently made the point that  human beings need connection. I can’t speak for other animals or other living creatures, but I agree that connection is deeply important for humans. I think this is why we become addicted to things like social media.Underneath this addiction there is a very profound need for connection.

I have been dealing with depression a lot lately. It is something that I have struggled with for most of my adult life. Lately things have been different, in a good way. When I am in the middle of a depressive state I am able to realize that I am in a depressive state. This is huge. Normally I let the depression take me down. Being able to take a step back and see it for what it is has really helped. This past week, when I had that “aha” moment, I had some insight into why these episodes are so painful and awful. When I am depressed there is something in my brain that can’t feel connected. It just isn’t there. It’s frightening and horrible. Intellectually I know that I am cared for and loved but I can’t feel it. Not being able to feel it is the absolute worst.

The thing that keeps me going when I am in this state is the knowledge that I am loved. Of course the story-line plays in my head that I’m not but underneath the story-line I know that I am loved. And my knowledge of this fact is cemented by the actions of others toward me. Even if I can’t feel it I know it is true. This is what gets me through.

And since I know that depression is a temporary state, I know that it will pass, like the clouds through the sky.

You can stand under my umbrella

Life

I don’t know about you but the news from the past week and a half has really gotten to me. The day Robin Williams committed suicide seems to have started a downward spiral of terrible news all over the world. I am  disturbed by all of it.

I am especially saddened by the death of Robin Williams. The sadness has crept up on me slowly. When I see videos of him and stories about him it breaks my heart all over again. I grew up with him and his crazy sense of humor. I see these videos of him being funny and, like others, I am shocked that this person decided to end his own life.

Suicide is a very touchy subject for me. It has affected my life in many ways. When the subject comes up in the news it stirs up thoughts of my own struggles with depression.

In an odd turn of events, I was called upon this week to attend a Mental Health First Aid training workshop.  I was a little hesitant to go because I was personally feeling a little fragile, but I went anyway. It was really good training, though very intense. I went away from it feeling good about helping someone through a mental health crisis should the need arise. It also helped me realize that I am not alone in my struggles, which helps me feel better.

During this past week and a half one of the things that has come up (and was completely validated when I took this class) is the idea that we need to reach out to others who are suffering. It is a hard thing to do. I admit to not doing it as often as I should. I would even go as far as to say it is a very brave thing to do.

When a person is in a deep depression they are incapable of helping themselves. Much of the advice I have heard on social media about this is something like, “If you are depressed, don’t be afraid to reach out to others.” Unfortunately, this is very hard to do. Sometimes it is impossible. When a person is in that place of darkness it can be hard to find the way out. It becomes very important for others to  help them by leading the way out.

A Polish proverb came up over and over again about a month ago in very disparate places. It was very odd and made me wonder if the Universe was trying to tell me something. The proverb is:

Not my circus. Not my monkeys.

when I first saw it I embraced the idea. I tend to easily get sucked into other people’s drama and it affects me in negative ways, at times. However, after giving it some thought I have to really disagree with it.  I realized that we are all in this together. We are rowing the same boat. If you are suffering, I am suffering too. Your suffering is my suffering. So it benefits me to reach out and help.

I am so very grateful to those of you (you know who you are) who have helped me through some of those darker times. Thank you very much.