Tag Archives: development

Cults and Memories

The past, mothers, religion, improv, and relationships are coming up a lot lately in a mesh of memories and reminders. Relationships are challenging when you have depression and social anxiety. Flashes of memories or just the feelings from the past can sweep over you when triggered and your mind is confused but your body is set in the reaction to something years long gone.
My family was very religious, restrictive, and poor. Unlike some of my siblings, I did not do home schooling at any point. I attended private religious schools. However, I was expected to follow my parents rules of dress, behavior, music, work, speech, and life and not participate in most of what my fellows at school did. Simultaneously being told I needed to be more open and friendly because I was shy and felt isolated from others I was expected not to integrate or enjoy the things they did. My clothes were a source of mockery, along with my speech impediments and that I wasn’t allowed the entertainments those around me shared.

I am a reader. I always have been a reader. But my choice of books was highly restricted. I read everything I was allowed multiple times, even the encyclopedias and dictionaries. But once my options opened when I left their home, I realized that despite the apparent attempts at a good education I was woefully lacking in knowledge, experience, and variety. I began to read a wide variety of books and materials and continue that to this day.

Each incident at school was the start of a chain of emotional events and trouble I knew to expect. In many ways, the expectation was worse than the series of punishments. The schools had orders to use swats for any offence they felt worthy, which is broad and covers most things including failing to turn in homework I completed but didn’t give them. I would ace a test and go to receive my swats for not doing the homework to prepare for the test I aced. Walking dejectedly to the office I knew it was only the first because when I got home I would would get a lecture separately from each parent and swats again from one of them.

Rarely did I do anything truly deserving of punishment because I had a very clear understanding of the consequence and reward ratio. I felt I had a hard enough time without adding extra issues for limited reward. Of course, that means when I did choose to do something the punishment was fairly pointless because I knew what it would be and chose to act anyway. I had already determined the risk to reward ratio was in my favor.

The lives around me were like another world to me that I watched from a distance without relating or fully understanding. From the girl whos parents dropped of hundreds for her to go shopping in the mall alone after school or to take her friends out to the kids sharing the newest dance moves in the halls I could not participate. I was quiet, shy, and introverted and places like a shared locker room were a terrifying thought. Numerous times I opted to accept detention for changing in the nearby restroom rather than endure mockery and embarrassment in the locker room. I also had it drilled into me not to undress in front of others so a locker room was a problem.

Conversations were hard because we shared nothing in common other than classes and those were mostly boring and too easy so I didn’t really pay attention. At some point there was always the risk conversation would veer toward my mother and her cancer, which was not something I wanted to discuss. Religious people would imply either that they were praying which was obviously not working or that if she actually had faith she would not be sick. The added issue that she was a test patient because we couldn’t afford treatment much less any extras or luxuries. I absolutely was unwilling to discuss where the food on our table came from because that was a mockery I knew I could not handle. How do you feed 7-10 people on $20 a week, sometimes more, sometimes less? The poor ladies of the church had a list of stores that discarded usable food and mom had an agreement to collect discarded vegetables for the horse. We sorted through the horses vegetables to see what could go on the tale first.

Many times I remember sitting in a parking lot while my mother composed herself or cried in the one place no one could see. After a horrifyingly degrading day trying to meet the needs of the family or accepting charity she would go home to dad’s anger and screaming rants about anything and everything. She would go home to 2 children in constant medical car and her own terrifying medical care. She would go home to the holes in the floor and walls and the car held together by duct ape and wood. She would go home to watch me cower from dad’s anger and my brothers acting out. Failing that we would go to church, where we spent more evening than not to be told how we were all sinners and needed to give more, do more, be more, bring in more people, and earn a place. We went to the church where I was yet again alone and mocked and here knew the question of my families lack of faith and why they were poor and sick would come up. I knew there would be taunts and often physical confrontation. These happened at school but more consistently at the churches.

Each service I listened then as mom taught me I went home and studied. I read their books and teachings. These always led to questions that if I asked someone other than my parents resulted in something to the effect of me being a girl child that should learn my place and be silent and do as I was told. Years of memorization and reading led me to no other conclusion than the religion was a compounded grouping of modifications stolen from older teachings and chosen by various leaders in the worst periods of history to best control, dominate, and instill fear. It is a religion based on fear and control. It is a religion that teaches the only reason to be a good person is to avoid punishment not because it is right. Each test of the history I was taught led to the inescapable conclusion they had manipulated the teaching to show a lie and manipulate the views of the children they took into their care.

What I saw from the outside was a cult that manipulated participants to view the world through a filter and with careful blinders. They were trying for the isolation of those in the retreats but in the city so they could better raw more people.

My mother was a brilliant and strong woman trapped in a world that treated women as a lower level being. She did all the work for a doctorate but was denied the degree because she was a woman at a baptist college. She was a writer and a researcher by nature, a leader and communicator but denied the right to lead, teach, research, or speak freely. The man was the head of the household and the wife was expected to follow him, obey him, accept his behavior, and not question or attempt to teach men. With permission a woman could teach other women or children but that would be shut down if they questioned her teachings or behavior outside class. Children were under her rule but punishments were the prerogative of the man, as were the rules she was to teach. Girls were expected to be obedient, submissive, silent, and learn the proper behaviors of a good wife. I refused to learn any wifely duties at every step, only many years later learning some of them were fun skills when used for your own pleasure or business rather than in service to a master.
Advertisements

Returning to life

The desk was cold and hard. the room was noisy, but in a distant way that crashed like waves on the bubble she felt around her. Being here was odd, fascinating, wonderful, scary, and felt like an impossible blend of familiar and strange.
Returning to university had been hard but she was glad she had acted on her decision. sitting here waiting for class to start she watched this room full of kids half her age and smiled. In some things she related all too well and in others it was like dealing with another species that grew up on another world. She has friends in this room and others she barely knows. A few she barely tolerates but that is the nature of a university. This is not her first or even her second. It also won’t be her last but she will graduate here.
Emotional distance has kept her going for some time now. Getting here hadn’t been easy but it was worth it. That morning she had been up early as every other day to get to one of her 5 jobs. Every break in class was an hour or two she could be at work and tuition was high. The sun from the window behind her caught the sparkle on one girl’s toe as she moved then on her finger. Watching the girl she recognized the ring from work that morning. Washing the dishes in the cafeteria was soothing in a way but sometimes the private university students were rude to staff they considered beneath them. This girl she remembered came through not long after the hilariously stoned boy that had been shocked by her hand reaching out the window for his plates.
A voice broke into her watching as someone realized she was there and joined her. The group project was halfway done and the team needed to meet soon. On her other side sat a friend from last night’s gaming session. These kids were bringing her back and although they didn’t know it, healing her.

After the past few years seeing the world with college students in this small, secluded place was exactly the separation from life she needed. Community college had been good. She had finished both programs. But she hadn’t gotten the certificates because she left before the optional test. Community college was still in Houston though and that was the last place she wanted to be. Here she was in the world of this small school and these people that saw the world fresh and light with none of the darkness she had seen in the world.

Darkness was there but here she could remember how to find the balance inside to deal with it. Here she could remember the important things not what business and society said was important but rather those things that make people smile or laugh. Learning with them and teaching in the writing center reminded her that helping and teaching healed both people.

Meditation Series – part 5: development of a practice.

Meditation practice is a staged development, that flows and fluctuates with our inner self.
You first focus on awareness, focus, the positioning of the body, and calming the mind. You are developing the receptivity to seeing inside and the peace to sit in calm awareness and quiet.

Next, you will reach the stage of introversion where you can view your self, your emotions, your fears, your doubts, memories, and internal connections. These can be re framed in a different perspective of the same, to change your response. The act of acknowledging these things changes them. Simply having the receptivity to see them as they are and not as you want or fear to see them, changes how they affect you. You practice letting them go in meditation and you will see the root of them.

Next, is the subconscious states that are the true beginning of meditation. This is where you begin to truly touch the subconscious mind, the energy, and the knowledge. This is where you move toward the goals of self-realization, transcendence, enlightenment, and bliss.
You start your practice in non-threatening, quiet, controlled settings to develop the foundation that allows you to delve into other forms of meditation and to take those you do to new levels and methods. You will be distracted, you will think of other things, you will have that annoying itch, you will want something to listen to. The practice of silence (even if it is only one of the forms you use) will help you learn to let them go. Experience them, acknowledge them, but do not dwell on them, fight them, or have emotions about them. That is why you start with a focus, whether it is a physical thing like the flame, a word, a thought like compassion, or an action like breathing.

We have through this series used a lot of terms and names you may not know offhand but you will find as you research that many forms of meditation have multiple names. Partially this is because the same form may come from multiple cultures and thus the names and even translations may vary. Also, we continue to develop new names as branches continue and branch again into new varieties of the same basic form.
Open monitoring for instance is a term I only heard recently because there are so many other names for the same thing. This is the silent observation forms where you are simply present and fully aware and immersed in the moment and what is. Most mindfulness meditations will fall into this type. Another example of this is Shikantaza from Japan. it is, like many in this group, a Zen based meditation.
Focused attention is another one but it is both fairly obvious and little different than the term I have used throughout, focused. Just like it sounds, these forms focus on something. The focus can be words, sounds, breath, an object, a point, or a body. You will also see this referred to as concentrative meditation. Mantra meditations such as transcendental meditation can be very helpful for focusing and clearing the mind. The specific mantras vary by form and culture and the tones tend to have very long histories and purpose. Those in the TM practice came out of the Vedic traditions.

There are some, like Vipessana (or in Tibetan rather than Sanskrit
lhagthong) that use aspects of both forms. Samatha is a form that also does but it is often today a paired form with Vipessana and you develop both together. The very long history of these forms leaves a lot of room for research and discussion about how they combine or don’t. “According to Thanissaro Bhikkhu, “samatha, jhana, and vipassana were all part of a single path.”” The early roots are Theravada but it ended in the 10th century and was revived in the 18th. The idea of open observation is to see all without interpretation, expectation, editing, self, or bias. You are seeing physical phenomenah such as breathing without engaging with it. It is not you, it simply is.
Vipassanā jhanas are stages describing the development of samatha. The four vipassanā jhanas are: one – explore the body/mind connection, nonduality; discover three characteristics. See these points in the presence of vitakka and vicara. two – in which the practice feels effortless, Vitaka and vicara disappear. three – piti/joy disappears leaving only happiness (sukha) and concentration. four – purity of mindfulness due to equanimity, leads to direct knowledge. Comfort disappears in seeing the dissolution of all phenomena. All phenomenon is seen as unstable, transient, and disenchanting. The desire of freedom.
Other methods that combine forms often combine an empty or open meditation with another form. Some examples are shambhala, loving-kindness, open awareness, analytic, mindfulness, dzogchen, and stabilizing. Chakra meditations probably fall in this group also.

Several forms use prayer bead such as those found in Catholicism, Hinduism, Islam, and Buddhism.
Taoist meditations were heavilly influenced by Buddhism and like many of the others we discussed have a very long history. Ding is the concentrative form. It is also called intent concentration or perfect observation. Guan or observe is to obtain unity with the Dao. Cun is is a visualization tequnique to be present and increase longevity. Inward training of the qi through breathing tequnices are another form. The sit and forget form from the 3rd century is an empty form. Internal martial arts or neijia include qigong, neidan, taijiquan. The related meditation forms are quigong, zuochan, nd taijiqan.

Many faiths have forms that combine prayer and meditation such as the Catholic rosary. Judais, Bahai, and Islam each have a combination form that falls in this group.
Chakra meditation could take a post of their own and are something you should look into if you choose to practice meditation regularly. they are often incorporated into meditation practices and used with other types of meditation.

Meditation series part 4: Active meditation

Active Meditation is recommended for those with some experience with passive meditation. However, it can feel easier to those that have trouble with the extended passive meditations sessions. It will be effective on its own but a time of passive meditation should be combined with it for best results.
Quoting one source “Once the ego mind has quieted down after passive meditation, and you then shift into an active form of meditation, this is where you can truly harness the power of meditation for creating inner transformation and charging up with new energy.”

The first example many people will think of is the use of meditative yoga or walking. Other actions and work activities can be meditative: think of raking a zen garden. Any task you can drop into a meditative state while doing is appropriate.
All meditation trains your attention but active meditation can be a great help to those that have trouble with long periods of sitting or quiet. Although it is recommended as a later stage if it is needed to help train your mind, it is the right time.

Active meditations are used to develop a connection between mind and body, drawing your attention to breathing and making use of the adaptive network of the brain. As in passive meditation, active meditation will have distractions. Simply acknowledge them in general terms and let them pass. Do not try to make them go away or identify them, just let them go and focus on your breathing. This practice is one of the stages of developing full awareness and connection to all parts of the body and feeling every part of it.

The 4 types of meditative yoga are pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, and samadhi. Research and try different yoga forms and activities when you are learning.

In active meditation, you are using some of the same principles as in a mindfulness meditation. Here it is with intent to engage all your senses in the focus. This is often aided in early stages by having an actual physical focus such as a sound, a flame, a bowl of water, something you can physically interact with and engage the senses to help train yourself. This is one of many reasons active meditation is not step one, but a physical focus can be used in active meditation.

Walking meditations: think of the Christian practices like James Way in Spain. Many people walk to clear their head or relieve stress. Time to walk at lunch can change the work day. At many jobs or schools I have used lunch as a time for some type of meditation to keep stress down. In Zen, walking meditation is called kinhin and is combined with extensive sitting meditation.

I prefer to do walking meditation outside but it can be done in an office or other room. You know meditation mazes, paths, and other things designed to focus you but you usually just walk, pause, breath, and be a part of only walking. Two forms are done. One is a clearing and open form that is less focus than empty. The one we are discussing here is clearing the mind by focusing on walking. Do not go on autopilot, that is why it helps during work. For 10 minutes be actively aware of the steps and breathing and nothing else.

Start by being aware of the major components of walking: the lifting of a foot; then the standing and slow movement of that foot forward; then the foot lands on the floor, feel it; feel the weight shift off that foot and how the foot begins to lift. Different forms focus on breathing, the movement itself, the sounds you cause, or other parts of the walking.
Work meditations include gardening or cleaning. Think of monks and the work they do. Working at a garden I hear many people talk about gardening and although they may or may not intend it that way, they use it as meditation. The practice is very similar to walking.

Art meditations: think of the zen doodles or free-form painting. Other activities include flower arranging (Ikebana), calligraphy (Shodō), and archery (Kyūdō). Really, you have no limitations in art meditation and the details vary. This is definitely one I recommend. Art is a release anyway so it’s a perfect outlet. I do free form sewing sometimes also and you can research this and try activities for years without exhausting the options. Some are open or empty mind to allow the art to express. Others are focused like the walking.
Dancing: think of Dhikr in Sufism, trance meditations, Mevlevi Dervish and Sama. I love dance meditation. Although I have not done it recently, it was my primary form for a long time. When I would dance, I was alone even in a crowd. The only thing that existed was dancing. Fully immersed in dance you find a completely different place of meditation than walking or working. My choice is the free form dance with music that you just do as it feels.

Exercise meditation can be any form of exercise but most the recognizable will be yoga or tai chi. Tai chi is also the first option most think of regarding martial meditation. This is another section that could be a series of books to itself do I recommend research and trying them. Even if you plan to practice alone, taking a class can really help you. You want to learn the forms enough that you are not thinking about them. You want to be able to meditate.
Again with meditative there are many forms that include both open and focused. Empty mind forms often use yoga. Focused forms are often guided or use equipment like weights, blocks, straps, muscle focus, or music. Your form must be right both for safety and to be most effective. Take the time and training to perfect your form and work up gradually from repeating a couple of perfect forms to more. Yoga, for instance is good for you and the learning time is stress relief itself.
As with all meditation, find what works for you and in your path. Research, experience, and think of you in the activities. The important point is a consistent and continuous practice that you do every day. A combination of types can give you a way to do that. In some jobs I did yoga at lunch and sitting forms at night. Other places I walked at lunch or meditated on the beach before work and did a water meditation after. What I need changes, what is available changes, time availability changes. It will grow easier to make time but start by working we within your schedule and altering it as little as possible. You are building a practice and it will develop.

An interesting article.

Who is a Scanner?

“Intense curiosity about numerous unrelated subjects is one of the most basic characteristics of a Scanner. Scanners are endlessly inquisitive. In fact, Scanners often describe themselves as being hopelessly interested in everything (although, as you’ll find out, this isn’t so). A Scanner doesn’t want to specialize in any of the things she loves, because that means giving up all the rest. Some even think that being an expert would be limiting and boring.

Our society frowns on this apparent self-indulgence. Of course, it’s not self- indulgence at all; it’s the way Scanners are designed, and there’s nothing they can or should do about it. A Scanner is curious because he is genetically programmed to explore everything that interests him. If you’re a Scanner, that’s your nature. Ignore it and you’ll always be fretful and dissatisfied.

It’s a whole new way of thinking, I know. And much of the world doesn’t see Scanners’ behavior as admirable or even acceptable. But it wasn’t always this way.”

Are You a Scanner? By Barbara Sher

 

Updating and reorganizing

After consideration of my current work and process, I have decided to make some changes to my site to fit more productively into my goals and schedule.

As such, I will be changing the name and description of the site to reflect, among other things, the move away from a daily schedule to a weekly schedule. This allows me to be more intentional in my posting and keeps my focus on my art. Also, I do not want to overwhelm email of those subscribed via email, I know from experience daily emails can quickly pile up into a lot of mail.

My art is becoming more than important in my life, but increasingly, it is becoming the focus of my life. For now, this leaves me working full time and spending every free moment working on my art and building a business around it. My blog needs to reflect both my love of art and my focus on development. I know this week is not following the weekly schedule J I am taking this week of slow sales at work to develop the foundation and set things up. I want all my followers and visitors to be comfortable with the changes and to enjoy my site. I share a part of myself, my passions, my work, my development, and my pleasure with the people on my blog, you are a part of the process and a part of my art. You have kept me focused, even when I have not shared the art. This has led to the current developments in my art and life and I am pleased to share them with you.

Shear Red Scarf- hand painted
Painting is a constant development, an expression in the moment. This vibrant, shear red scarf has been hanging on my dressing table wanting to be painted for a while. Finally I found what felt right and I began this piece. It is now listed on my Etsy site and I am thrilled to share it with people and hope someone enjoys it as much as I. Rich colors appeal to me on a deep level and this is no different.

Hand Painted Red Scarf