Tag Archives: Anxiety

Coping with Distress

Today has already been what some might call distressing.

I spent my morning in the ER. Again. I thought, perhaps, it was a continuation of one of the two problems I’ve had within the past two weeks: either another kidney stone or another small-bowel obstruction. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how one looks at it) it was neither of those things. Instead, it was a condition called inflammatory colitis – in other words, an infection inside or outside the small bowel causing inflammation, pain, nausea, etc. To me, the symptoms were very difficult to distinguish from the feel  caused by a kidney stone or a bowel obstruction. There was a slight variance in severity and location of the pain, and the level of physiological distress (I separate this from pain because for me, it is a separate issue) which is a term I have invented for that feeling of intense frustration and anxiety that occurs when one has a medical condition or illness (or even a psychiatric or psychosocial issue) that is continuing to reoccur or worsen despite your best efforts. It is that feeling inside your head that makes you crazy: you start to wonder if perhaps there is no cure, no treatment, no solution that will be effective for you. It starts to seem like no matter what you do, you will always have pain, always be depressed, always have difficulty meeting people or with the opposite sex, or perhaps that you will always be estranged from a friend or family member whom you love.

I may have invented the term “physiological distress”, but I’m betting I’m not the only one to have experienced it. Like pain, or anxiety, this type of distress defies external measurement. It is subjective. In fact, in my experience, it is so subjective as to be unpredictable even to one who has experienced it multiple times in multiple situations. For example, I have had abdominal pain and nausea more times than I can count in my short life. And yet, there is no predictability in the way each iteration of these symptoms will cause physiological distress. Last Thursday I was feeling possibly the worst pain and worst nausea out of the last two weeks. Yet I proceeded to drive myself to the hospital and wait in the ER and explain everything to the nurse who commented: “you seem incredibly calm for someone experiencing the symptoms you are experiencing”. And yet, when went to the ER this morning, I was so anxious and upset that I took the wrong freeway exit, then misspelled my name, then nearly missed the gurney as I tried to sit down. I could barely get the gown on, and for those who have ever put one of them on, they are about the simplest garment one could imagine: there are two holes for your arms in the upper portion of the gown. That is it. Sure, it has a place to tie in the back, but no one expects you to tie it yourself.

I guess this post is really about this idea that the frustration in dealing with chronic or reoccurring problems in my life can actually become a significant, separate issue that may not really coincide with the severity of the inciting incident.

That is really easy to demonstrate, given that today, I was not actively passing a kidney stone, nor had I passed one (at least to my knowledge) in the past several days. A kidney stone SHOULD produce a significantly higher level of distress than a simple inflammation of the intestinal tract. And yet, possibly because it seemed to be a reoccurrence of an incurable and unpredictable problem, today’s pain and nausea (most likely lower in severity than that of a few days ago) produced a much higher distress level.

I honestly don’t know what the application would be. Perhaps all of this just means I need some more psychiatric and psychological help. (that is probably a fact rather than a supposition, whether for this type of distress or for one of the other myriad of mental absurdities my brain and body put me through on a daily basis) Perhaps it just means I am spending more time than I should using my brain to watch my body and using my brain to watch itself – we typically call this “introspection” or something like that, but I find that term to be rather one dimensional as it primarily refers to using one’s brain to ruminate on past actions, behavior, thoughts, and responses rather than focusing one’s attention on what one is thinking NOW, or a combination of those things, or even what one is feeling emotionally and physically combined with what one is thinking at any given point in time.

Enough with the terminology.

My question to myself and to all of you, in light of the distress I was feeling this morning, is this: if and when you are feeling physiological distress, what methods are available to deal with it, and which ones are the most effective? Which ones are healthiest? Which ones support your personal wellness and lifestyle goals?

For example, one way many of use deal with our distress is to eat. Yet for many, that is a destructive way of dealing with distress, and might even wind up causing distress in the future. Another method for dealing with distress is recreational drug use. But if you don’t know from personal experience, then take a leaf out of my book: this is NOT the way to deal with your distress. It ultimately causes a significantly higher level of distress in all areas of life, rather than a single source of distress that may have triggered the drug use originally.

But there are healthy ways to deal with what distresses you. One thing I can almost always count on to alleviate my distress is to act. To DO something that addresses whatever is causing me to feel the way I do. So today, that action was to go to the hospital. Something that, even as frustrating and anxiety producing as it was, was actually less frustrating than sitting at home hurting and anxious.

I wish I could tell you that because I am aware of this dynamic in my life I always choose the healthy ways to combat my distress. In fact, it is probably the opposite: even though I am aware of this dynamic, I still often choose unhealthy coping methods.

I’d love to hear from you about your experiences. Have you felt “physiological distress”? If so, what does it feel like to you, personally? What methods, healthy or not, have you employed to cope? What works best, and what just doesn’t work at all?

Thank you for reading. I wish you a distress-free Sunday!

Peace to you,

-Nathan

Quitters NEVER Win

I had some pretty frustrating anxiety yesterday. I know I posted a bit on Facebook so some of my might already be familiar. Here’s the situation:

I had been feeling that knot in my stomach since the minute I woke up. It is that sense that tells you that something is wrong, very wrong. Even when you can’t figure out for the life of you what it is, you know there is something you forgot to do, or did wrong, whatever.

So I ran through my new drill of coping skills. I had a headache as well, so I put an ice pack on my head. I worked out. I showered, I meditated. I talked to a friend. And then went through my phone book and called just about everyone, just to try and see if someone was available to help me get the hell out of my house.

I ate, I drank tea and extra water. Then (because I forgot it was Saturday for a bit) I started calling medical providers so I could start to work on establishing my next level of care and make sure my current docs know exactly what is going on for me.

Anyway, I pretty much went through my repertoire.

And yes, if you’re wondering, I do have meds for anxiety. I have a prescription for up to 2mg of Klonopin 3 times a day. But I clearly don’t need anywhere near that much – the only reason I’d need that high of a dose would be if I was having serious muscle spasms approaching seizure level or if I was hyperventilating so bad that my O2 saturation was dropping into the 80% range.

And none of those “crises” are likely to happen at this point.

I worked out a new system with my Aunt and Uncle because they have gotten sick of distributing meds to me and I’ve gotten sick of having to ask for them every time I need them. And I think I’m reaching the point where I can self-manage at least a bit.

So my aunt has just been putting three of my pills in a little container on the counter in the morning. That’s half my prescribed dose, but it is usually all I need. Personally if I think I need more than that then there is probably something else going on that I need to address.

Anyway, back to yesterday. I went through all the coping mechanisms I could think of before finally taking one of my pills. And I am convinced now more than ever that medication has its best effect when you do other things to your system simultaneously. So all the other relaxing things I did, all the mental/emotional work I did, reaching out to friends and family – the medication worked better AFTER I did all those things. I used to think that medication was a replacement for all that.

Like if I took a pill then I wouldn’t have to worry about any other coping skills. After all, why meditate when you can just ingest a substance that relaxes your body and calms your mind?

Why indeed?

My answer? Because they have a complimentary effect on one another. And in truth, medication doesn’t work very well at all unless you are really supporting the health of your entire being.

Over the past few days I’ve been developing a theory. My theory is that when medication is used (even in absolutely necessary situations) and a patient is not given the support and taught techniques to promote their spiritual, mental, and emotional well being in addition to their physical selves, that is when addictions or dependence is prone to develop.

Because giving someone a pill and telling them, “here, this will fix it” is as good as saying, “you don’t have to do anything to be healthy but take this pill”. When in fact all doctors worth their MD’s will tell you that meds don’t work well without what is called adjutant therapy. Pain won’t go away after an injury just by taking pain killers. You need physical therapy. My lungs won’t clear themselves out just because I inhale my nebulized medications; I have to do my chest physiotherapy.

More importantly, none of this stuff works without some sort of connection to the rest of the world. Spiritual, social, whatever it is for you, I don’t care. All I know is that when I didn’t have people around me and I didn’t believe there was anything out there bigger than myself, I felt isolated, alone, and helpless.

Now that I know that there is an energy that runs through me that touches the whole universe and that I can tap into that energy, I feel so much more alive, so much more able to move through pain and adversity.

I’m not cured. I’m still recovering. Who knows how long it will take? But I have to commitment now. All I need is the time.

Quitters Never Win – Truth

Peace to you,

-Nathan

Exposing “Mr Q”

Well last night my mother and I slept at my Aunt Laura’s. We were a bit worried that we might be imposing because Laura leaves on a trip tomorrow, but she was happy to have us here. We brought over some Thai Food, sat and chatted, watched some of the end of the Olympics, and played a few rounds of Boggle, which looks suspiciously like “Scramble with Friends”.

I had an okay day thanks to the support of my family and my commitment to continue moving forward. But it also helped to have some meds to make my symptoms a little more bearable.

What I am contemplating now is this:

Throughout this process I have been able to draw upon an inner strength that I didn’t even really know existed. Imagine hauling up water out of a previously dry well, and you get some sense of what it has felt like to dredge deep within my soul and pull out resistance and strength I didn’t know I had.

Always, in the past, every single time, when things got tough and the symptoms got worse, I let the addict part of my brain run the show. I delivered myself into his hands begging “please, oh please get us out of this pain!”

This time, however, due to the help of my family and the doctor I saw in the Emmanuel ER, I was able to say, “no”, you can not control me, you can’t make me go back on drugs just because that will temporarily relieve the pain. It is hard, denying myself something I feel I need, that sometimes I even feel like I deserve. The worst part is when your brain decides to get all clever and come up with a really pretty and logical sounding rational for why getting immediate relief from pain while sabatoging progress is not just okay, but is the right thing to do.

All along, my brain has been feeding me lines like

“you shouldn’t be doing this, you did the taper wrong, the withdrawals are worse than they should be, you won’t be able to deal with them, if you want to stay on track, you need to get back on the subutex, cause after all, it was what made your progress possible, not you. No, not you, never you. You could NEVER have done all this stuff without subutex. So obviously you should get back on it so that you can keep moving forward…right? So just call your doctor, tell him you made a mistake, he will work it out with you, you know he will. And your friends and family might not approve but if the understood how much easier this will be for all of them…..

Uh…Wow. My uncle named that voice inside me “Mr Q”. Because it is always questioning, always looking for a loophole, or a way out. Clever as clever can be, but without a shred of dignity or honesty. Mr Q will accept any means to his ends, even if it means hurting those he loves or endangering himself.

Mostly though, when Mr Q talks, what comes out are lies. He is the part of me that lies to myself, that I use to manipulate others…he is the kingpin of all the addictive voices in my head.

And the reality is not that I will ever truly try to be rid  of Mr Q, per se. More that I will be able to hear him, listen, and just observe his voice without getting sucked into it and embodying it. Q’s energy is fearful, distrusting, scheming, conniving, manipulating, lying, hating, angry, and in pain. He curls up in a corner so that no one will see him, and when someone does happen to notice him, he becomes standoffish: “whatchu lookin at? Mind yer own damn business” he snarls. Mr Q doesn’t care about anyone or anything except protecting himself and keeping himself pain free.

So my goal for the next five days: observe my Mr Q, but keep him in check, and mostly, to embody him as little as possible. He must remain in the background for me to do my work.

Thank you to everyone who has been reading this and following my struggle through the past few days. Things are hopefully on the upswing now, and I look forward to posting more tomorrow,

 

Goodnight, and Peace to you,

-Nathan

 

Don’t worry, more about “Mr Q” in the next few posts

Midnight Meltdown and Subsequent Fallout

Yesterday was absolute hell. I was sitting in a tiny ER room from about 2:30am to around 10pm or so. My aunt and uncle were there till the doctor saw me at 6am, and then they went home and eventually my parents came instead.

I didn’t take any opiates, and all they really did was give me some IV fluids and some ativan to settle me down. And it helped a bit.

The problem was that when I started talking to my parents, they both told me that the contract I have had with Richard and Kate for the last several months was now null and void because of my actions. You see, part of the contract said that I, Nathan, will not cheat, steal, or lie. And unfortunately, during the past couple days of weakness, I lied to my aunt and uncle, I stole some of their wine and drank it (which didn’t make me feel any better, by the way) and I also had told them that I had done more work on a set of forms for SSDI than I actually had done. In this way, and because of my hysterical desire to go to the ER last night and keeping them up the entire night, I had voided the contract, which meant when I left that little ER room, I now had no place to go.

Fucking scary right? Right in the middle of detox and all of a sudden someone tells you that you’re homeless.. All I could think of was that I was going to die. I know there is no way I can make it on the street. I have tried that, and I got so sick I had to spend three weeks hardly moving from a hospital bed.

I am blessed to have a family that is firm but not cruel. My parents, aunt and uncle, and my sister and soon to be brother-in-law helped me talk through the whole thing, and then I went upstairs with my sister and they decided what was to be done with me.

It was as nerve wracking as the only time I have been in court. I felt like I was being given a guilty verdict and a sentence without any type of appeal or defense.

But it turned out there were really just trying to figure out how they could best support me over the next few days so that I can make it through this detox process safely (both for me and them).

So after the conversation it was decided that since Richard and Kate had hardly gotten to sleep the day before, someone needed to come over here with me to just be with me and to help distribute meds if needed and just generally stay with me to help me make it through the night.

So my loving mother came and slept in the guest room next to mine, and she put up with the half dozen times that I actually had to come in to her room tell her how crappy I felt, and she let me just sit in the chair by her bedside and talked to me a bit, she even offered to come lay with me in my room and just hold me so that maybe I could settle down and sleep. I can’t believe how blessed I am to have the family that I do. Even Luke, the “newest” member of the family told me yesterday to call him for any reason and he would do whatever he could to help me.

There were still times throughout last night where my body and mind wholly wanted me to believe that I couldn’t do this. But I just kept asking for my mom’s support when I needed it, and as a last resort I took an ativan to help call down my raging muscles and my spinning mind. With all of that assistance I made it through the night.

Now, the challenge is to make it through today.

It is nine am right now. So right now my goal is to make it till noon. If I can do that, then I am on my way. After noon, my goal might just be to get to 1pm. So much of this process is just being able to rethink what is happening. If the thought in your mind is that, “oh god I might feel this way for 5 more days and I can’t sleep and I can’t eat, and I can’t relax and I just can’t even do this for five more minutes, much less 5 days…”  well, of course you won’t be able to handle it.

So now after hours having past  – it is 10:30pm at this moment – I can see that despite all the doubtful moments I had today, I made it through. Even though I was still having thoughts all day long telling me that I can’t do this, trying to get me to scheme to get drugs, I did m best to just notice them, not judge them, and let them go. Ok, so this voice in my head says, “you can’t take this, go get drugs”, and I respond, “oh I hear you, but that isn’t the direction we are going right now.

As I explained in this meeting with my family today: the question I need to ask myself for the next few days is this: am I the King or am I the King’s Horse? In other words, who is riding whom? When I start to freak out and lose control, and when I fully believe I will fail and there is no chance for me to succeed, then the horse is riding me. I think this horse that has been riding me for the last few years has left me not feeling much a king at all. He has left me feeling like the lowest of the low. But I am fighting back against him. And I am not doing it alone. My family and friends are there to say, “hey Nathan, watch out, who is riding how at this moment?”

I want to take a quote from

Florence + The Machine (a lovely British band) from her song “Shake it Out:”

“I keep dragging that horse around

Our love is pastured

Such a mournful sound

Tonight I’m gonna bury that horse in the ground”

I feel like I have been this horse around on my back for five years, listening to it, and doing what it told me, so that it truly became the king and I became the horse. But now, I’ve thrown him off, and I am dragging him around by his ankles and he is moaning, quite loudly the he needs help and the I can’t do without him. But tonight, I will bury him so far down out of reach that he won’t ever ride me again.

That may be an ambitions statement, but I find that sometimes the more ambitious a statement I make (therefore the less likely others will take it seriously) the more often I want to stick to it, sometimes just to spite all the doubters, sometimes merely to prove to myself that I can.

Thank you for all bearing with me throught these last few days of sporadic posting.

Things should level back out again in a few days once my system is back to normal and I am no longer bouncing around from house to house.

Peace to you,

Nathan Howells

What We Focus On Expands

Today was officially my last day of subutex. And parts of today were tough. I’ve finally started to feel some of the physical discomfort that often comes from the detox process. My muscles have been tight, I have felt fatigued, and my joints have been sore.

Yet despite that, I got up and after doing my nebulizer treatments and eating breakfast, I walked the nine tenths of a mile up a nice steep hill to Lakeridge High School where I ran 1.2 miles on the track (with a few breaks to catch my breath) and then walked back home. So all in all, I walked and ran a total of 3 miles today. Then I came home and did my Tai Chi, and then I had to rest. I really had to focus on keeping my mind occupied so that it didn’t focus on my physical discomfort.

I know from long experience that what I focus on expands. So if I sit and focus on how awful I feel, it will get worse and worse until I actually convince myself that I am having a serious crisis. But I have found that if I catch myself, and just focus my attention outside of my body or meditate or sometimes just watch some TV, I will quickly forget about pain or fatigue and I will often feel much better.

The problem is keeping my mind occupied so that it doesn’t just get stuck on how I feel physically. I am blessed at this time to not really feel that bad. All things considered, I feel one-hundred times better than I ever have during the detox process. The fact that I not only exercised this morning but that I went to my martial arts class this evening really says a lot to me. I am determined to keep myself focused on my wellness, and for me, right now, that means emphasizing my mental focus over any physical discomfort.

Yes, when my body needs to rest, it needs to rest, and I will make sure to listen and respond appropriately when necessary. But I will continue to work toward my goals for my physical fitness, and I will push myself as much as possible despite the discomfort this detox process may cause. Most of all, I will have to keep my mind occupied so that I minimize the anxiety that can come from focusing on the discomfort that sometimes occurs.

Obviously this is easier said than done. But I am proud of how I have done so far. But really the next few days are the big test. Thus far I have always had it in my mind that I will still have another dose or two of the subutex to prop me up. Now that is over and done, and I have to allow my body and my mind to re-calibrate to life without that substance in my body artificially changing how I feel.

I am still choosing to believe that if I keep my energy in a good place, I will continue to be able to work through any discomfort I have and still be able to pursue my goals for optimal wellness.

Thanks for reading, and peace to you,

-Nathan

My Own Way (Getting Out of It)

I feel out of sorts today. I’ve been thinking about this since early this afternoon, and I can’t quite pinpoint the feeling (if there is a specific feeling) or problem (if there is one). I feel like there was something I was supposed to do that didn’t get done, but I have checked and re-checked the list, and even gone above and beyond what I expected of myself today.

So I know I didn’t forget anything. So that’s off the list. Now, did anything odd happen to be today? Let’s see….I had a pretty normal morning, and I even ran a bit further today than I have been. Everything went pretty smoothly…ok well, not everything. I guess I had a moment where my aunt was trying to help me with something (no details, the situation is too complicated) that I was already trying to take care of. She wasn’t giving me a hard time at all. But something about the situation reminded me of what things used to be like when I lived at my parents’ house.

Instead of me initiating things, my parents would have to constantly push me. I would procrastinate, avoid, and flat out ignore requests from them, even if it was something completely reasonable that aligned with my goals. I don’t know if it was just leftover teenage-rebellion or what. But it seemed like when I lived with my folks I never got anything done, or if I did, I couldn’t maintain any sort of commitment or long term effort.

For a long time I thought that it was just me. That it was who I was. That I was just a person who was incapable of consistency and hard work. I thought I was just lazy and, frankly, good for nothing. It didn’t help that by this point my parents and I were so at odds that they just confirmed my own opinion of my worthlessness by reiterating it to me every time I screwed up (which was often).

I hope it doesn’t sound like I am blaming them for anything or accusing them of doing something wrong. All I am saying is that the person I was at that time seemed to be incapable of change and incapable of moving forward.

I tried, and failed. Tried, and failed. Over and over and over again. Sometimes I would make a little progress. Sometimes I might even make a lot. But every time, something would happen (usually I would end up sick and in the hospital) and I would fall right back to where I’d begun, or sometimes even end up further back than I started.

I guess something today in that interchange with my aunt was similar enough to some of the conversations that I had with my parents during the time I was describing above that it triggered some latent fear, sadness, anxiety, frustration, and even anger.

I almost snapped at her, and all she was trying to do was suggest an option that she wasn’t sure if I had thought of yet. It was a thoughtful gesture on her part, and fortunately the part of me that has been in control of my mind and body was able to cut myself off before I made a harsh or angry comment.

After this, I went downstairs and meditated, even though I had already done my meditation. I could just feel the negative energy welling up inside me and I knew that if I didn’t find a way to let it out safely that it would turn inwards and wreak havoc inside me.  I have been so peaceful and centered lately that I had almost forgotten what it is like to be upset and frustrated to the point that I want to throw up my hands and give up. Today, I just felt frustrated and clouded and purposeless. I felt like a chicken without a head. And to be honest, I still don’t really know why. My reaction to my aunt brought these feelings to the surface, but they were there, bubbling up, from the minute I awoke today.

Ok, so I am coming back to this post after a couple of hours. I stopped to eat dinner, and during dinner I had a conversation with my uncle about what my day has been like. As I was expressing what has been going on, I had a sudden realization that there isn’t actually a problem at all. There may have been something going on with me when I woke up this morning, but by the late-morning or afternoon, the only problem was that I was continuing to look for a problem.

It is so easy to convince myself that there is something wrong. All I have to do is spend hours feeling mildly irritated and anxious, and expend vast amounts of energy trying to “fix” it.

I remembered one of my NVC (Non-Violent Communication) principles just now that I wish I would have thought of earlier today: I don’t need to have a “problem” or even a “reason” to feel something. Sure, it is okay for me to analyze the perceived cause of a specific emotion. But a majority of the time, the best, healthiest thing for me to do is to remind myself that whatever I am feeling is okay, and that I don’t have to analyze it, and that, most of all, I don’t need to judge it. So when I was feeling anxious and irritated earlier, the best thing for me to do would have been to take that feeling, sit with it, and remind myself, “there’s nothing wrong with feeling this way. It is okay to sometimes feel anxious and frustrated. I am not wrong to feel this emotion. It isn’t bad. It just is.”

Accepting who I am right this moment, and realizing that this person I am now is really not that closely related to the person I was two minutes ago…well, yeah, it is hard. Accepting that uncomfortable feelings like anger, fear, anxiety or frustration are not bad or wrong…that’s a tough one too.

There have been many times that I have tried really hard to live these principles, but just ended up thinking them. That is the hardest part. They can’t help you if you just think about them. They only work if you really apply them, but that sure is easier said than done.

But even after a day that I would categorize as “sub-par”,  during which I had many emotions and thoughts which were negative and uncomfortable…even after that, the best part is that I have a choice.

I can choose to let the day’s frustrations influence me now. I could have stayed anxious. But instead I chose to say, ok, that was how I felt earlier. But there is no reason why I have to feel that way now. In fact, I am feeling peaceful and at ease now. I am choosing to be the version of myself that both accepts what truly IS and has the power to change the parts of my reality that are malleable.

I think I worded that poorly. What I was meaning to say was that I am trying to live in a world of acceptance while still acknowledging my own power. Because acceptance, when taken too far, can become self-victimization. And too far the other direction can lead to a desire to control everything, and to make everything fit into the way you want it to be. And either extreme is harmful to yourself and the others around you. So I think yet again, what I am really talking about here is balance. And the great thing about balance is that it’s not something you either do or do not have. It is an inherent part of your being. Your self – body, mind, and spirit/energy – is constantly trying to attain or maintain what a biologist would call “homeostasis” or the state of having all the forces acting on you in balance with one another. In physics terms, the ideal is to have the net force acting on you equal to zero. What is wonderful about the human experience is that our whole beings are constantly trying to balance themselves regardless of what we do. The problem comes when we push them too far one way or another. Our system then tries to compensate, and often sends us even further out of whack.

I am asking myself what I can do to help my system do its job. For me, after today’s experience, I am thinking that (at least in situations like this one) the best thing for me to do is stay out of my own way. If I had just let things go and stopped trying to figure out the “problem” so that I could “fix” it, I would have had a much more productive, less frustrating day.

What about you? What happens inside when you are having a bad day? Do you look for the problem and overanalyze how you feel, the way I did today? Do you freeze, curl up and hide from whatever the perceived issue is? Do you take it head on, trying to just willpower your way through it? Do you pray or meditate or talk to a friend? Do you just avoid what is bothering you and hope it goes away?

You know what’s amazing? None of the options I just mentioned are right or wrong, bad or good. I choose instead to label them in a way that I find non-judgmental. I would say the strategies above are either effective or ineffective in a given situation. Sometimes you need to try several things. Or sometimes you have to just get out of your own way and let things be the way they want to be (which is what I will do next time I am in a situation similar to the one I was in this morning and afternoon).

I am already getting tired. I got up early yesterday and today, and I am going to try and continue that trend by getting to bed earlier as well.

So thank you for reading, and I hope you found something in this post that will support you on your own journey.

Life is an adventure as my great-aunt Gladys used to say. Every day is a new way to explore the experience of being you.

Peace to you all, and goodnight,

-Nathan

Becoming the River

Alright, in case you didn’t see the “placeholder” post I put up last night, I am actually posting this in the morning, the day after I wrote it. I’m using the neighbors internet. They live a few hundred yards away and they have a nice porch where I am sitting and typing. But I wrote the post below last night. So enjoy! 

Just a little while ago, I was sitting on the lowest landing of a set of wooden stairs perched precariously on the edge of a tall embankment amid the pines, firs, beech, and oaks. Below where I sat was the rocky, mossy edge of the west fork of the Washougal River. I was seated on my yoga mat on the flat landing just above the rushing water. I was meditating. When I closed my eyes the sound of the river seemed to flow over me. For a time, I felt simultaneously engulfed and filled up by the water. It was as if the river and I had momentarily attempted to share the same space. With my eyes closed, sitting just a yard or two away, there was no separation: I was the river, the river was me.

Just another example of how intimately we are connected with the things around us. Not just other human beings, but the air, the rocks, the trees, and the water.

My hope is that the more I practice my mindful meditations the easier it will become for me to enter the somewhat trance-like state in which I truly feel the connection between myself and my surroundings. And with time, I believe I will be able to interact with things that are not in my immediate vicinity but perhaps miles away.

But….I’ve already posted a ton of stuff about meditation. I had to tell you about my experience this evening, but the rest of this post is going to be brief and to the point. You see, at the River House (where I currently sit) there is no internet. So after writing this offline, I must walk down a hundred yards or so and sit outside in order to borrow the internet connection from one of the neighbors. And that isn’t easy. And it must be done before it starts getting dark. In other words, soon.

But I do have one thing to tell you about. Last night in my post Travel Anxiety, I explained to you the reasoning behind the nervousness and worry I was feeling. Well, some of my fears were confirmed today when I found out that I had misunderstood how long we would be staying here, and only prepared and packed for the weekend when we might indeed be staying as late as Wednesday. I found that out this afternoon just before we were going to leave, and I had not really packed properly, moreover, some of my respiratory meds will need refilling before Wednesday. In other words, it suddenly seemed like the anxiety I had been feeling was justified.

But, here’s where my current practices step in: because of my anxiety I had spent this morning’s meditation focusing on slowing down. I focused on slowing my thoughts, my actions, and, especially, the time between a stimulus and my reaction. Somehow, I knew that would be important. So when I found out that I had no idea how long we would be out of town, instead of freaking out and running around unpacking and repacking and getting angry because I, “should have been told….blah blah blah”, instead of all that, I just took a few deep breaths, and said, “Oh well. We’ll figure it out”.

I would not have been able to do that if I had not been for my meditation today and last night. Of course, the other new routines I have been practicing probably didn’t hurt either (e.g. Tai Chi, healthy eating, other exercise, drinking enough water, and taking all my medications) because they all affect my base level of stress and help keep me in a calmer state so that when change occurs I can flow with the change but not lose myself in it.

That is what I was able to do today, thanks to all the support from my family, friends, and of course, you!

Thank you all, and expect the next few posts to be somewhat brief. If, for some reason, the internet does not work and I cannot post, I will have a backlog of posts which I will publish on my return.

-Nathan