Category Archives: Blogging

Today is my one year blogging anniversary!

I got this website on on this date one year ago today, although I would not post my first blog until November 24th, when I finally knew what I wanted to say.

Thanks to everyone who’s come on the journey with me. Looking forward to sharing some VERY big news about the next exciting project. Here’s to another year of fun & sharing!

The Winding Road from Christianity to Buddhism

I’ve been thinking about my journey into Buddhism more often in recent days, reflecting on the path and how far I’ve come.

Throughout my life, I’ve had an interesting relationship with religion. I grew up with Christianity and attended church often as a child, but always felt out of place.

It’s never been like me to call on a higher power. The closest I ever came was in the fifth grade when I shouted up at the sky angrily, “If you are real, now would be a GREAT TIME to do something!” I wanted to believe but it all felt like a fairy tale to me. For many years I was very conflicted over this, but as I grew up the feelings faded.

Always walking to the beat of a different drum, although not intentionally, in middle school I discovered Wicca (a form of modern paganism). Finally, something self-empowering!

I stuck to a regular Wiccan practice for several years, until my late teens. There were so many things I loved about Wicca, the rituals, the connection with nature, the routine. The mantra, “If it harm none, do what ye will,” freed me from the guilt I had for being a non-believer in my previous church. I loved my new religion, it helped me to make sense of the world, gave me clarity.

My mother, on the other hand, was concerned for my mortal soul. She called me a “devil worshiper” and told me she “didn’t want me to go to hell.”  My mother went to church several times a week and dragged me along, moaning and groaning all the way.

Through the years I’ve been called many things but rebellious and difficult are probably the two I hear the most. “You HAVE to be a rebel don’t you?” “Why are you SO rebellious?” “Can’t you just do it like everyone else?” “Why do you have to be difficult?”

People accused me of becoming a Pagan just to tick off my mom. “Here is Christa being difficult again!” I was never trying to be difficult, all I wanted was to be myself.

In my early twenties, I studied all religions from a very high level. The similarities and parallels between all religions, things people seek and learn, were becoming more obvious to me.

For a while, I had no religion, but took up yoga and then meditation. These things created temporary pauses to the suffering didn’t know I had. I wanted to hang in the stillness, that perfect feeling when a yoga sequence becomes so effortless that all my worries and troubles stopped. I was addicted to the feeling and wanted to do yoga everywhere I went.

Many people don’t realize yoga is more than just body postures and sequences. Even fewer people dig into the history of yoga, but when I love something I have a deep need to know everything about it.

I became particularly fixated on chakra balancing and was convinced my Throat Chakra, the one in charge of communication, was off balance. I even went so far as to wear the color blue, a color I generally dislike, around my throat.

My exposure to yoga and yoga culture brought me into contact with Buddhism and its practical mind shaping wisdom. Buddhism acknowledged that life is full of near constant suffering. This was something I could relate to. I was suffering from something I could not name. Buddhism also promised a way to end ones suffering, so I was on board.

Buddhism is a very practical religion full of lists. I love it! There is no sin, the rules are clear, and you are encouraged to take responsibility for your own actions – every single thing you say or do. There is no threat of heaven or hell in the end, and because the historical Buddha was not a god, the only person you have to answer to is yourself.

The first step was to follow the Noble Eightfold Path, a list of things I needed to work on to reach mental freedom on earth. Right Speech seemed to give me the most trouble so I focused extra attention in this area, sometimes writing reminders in pen on my arms & hands.

Years later, I no longer need the reminders. Finally, I’ve got everything memorized and know how I should be acting. I’m practicing, getting better every day.

Nobody’s perfect. I am a work in progress. Each day is an opportunity to start over when we make mistakes. Every minute a chance to learn something new. It’s great to look back at the long and winding road, seeing how far I’ve come.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Quiet Place – An Addiction to Solitude

I have a deep love for the peaceful quiet that only solitude can create. When the dogs are sleeping, and the only sounds I hear are birds chirping, my introspective mind comes alive.

The blank in between the interactions, where I can find my true self, uncluttered by the sounds and feelings of others. This is my chapel, my holy place, where I speak with my soul.

It is the place I go for yoga and meditation, the place I go when I need to think. At first, I started in my home but, as I grow, I am learning to take it with me everywhere.

I build quite meditation and rest times into my day. Prescheduled breaks give me something to look forward to if I’m not excited about a project in front of me.

I’m a huge believer in positive reinforcement (although taking things away from me worked well for my mother when I was growing up). She called it The Taming of Shrew. For a while, I wondered why she was comparing me to a rodent.

My mother would set a clear expectation of what she wanted from me and what would be taken away if I did not comply. Rewards for good deeds also helped as motivators.

Now, as an adult rodent, I am in charge of motivating myself. I use lists and rewards, many of which are times of quiet reflection or writing breaks. Retreating back into myself, diving deeply, settling in my quiet space.

The atmosphere in my world is pleasant because I control most of the elements. It’s intoxicating and blissful. Why would I ever want to leave?

Careful not to get too comfortable.

This place, where art is born, songs come to life, and birds sing is too perfect, to the point of addiction. It would be easy to settle into a monk-like solitude, giving up speaking, but that is taking the easy way out.

Not speaking is easier. Being alone is often easier. I don’t want to settle for what is easy.

This comfort zone I’m standing in, it’s something I need to push. Walking out of it slowly, step by step, learning new things every single day.

Coming Home – The Road to Writing

Written words are enchanting magic spells, casting thoughts out into the wider world. As I relax into a quiet space behind my keyboard something miraculous happens.

Many people complain about how much they hate writing papers, but my experience with writing (typing) has been very different.

I remember the first time I felt the fear, sitting in the reading circle of my first grade classroom. Each student in the circle would have to read a passage out loud. Terrified, and on the spot, when the teacher called on me I froze like a mouse trying to hide in a dark corner, nose pointing down towards my book.

My mother was furious. I started reading at a young age but my teacher was insisting that I could not even perform the basics in her class. To make matters worse, I was “interrupting the learning environment for the other students, running around the classroom and making disruptive and distracting noises.” The teacher was not happy and my mother was in complete disbelief.

“That KID CAN READ!” I remember hearing her say. “She’s been reading since she was two years old!”

Yes, I could read. In fact, I had read the entire page in my head already several times. The literature was pretty simple, I understood and enjoyed the story but when asked to speak in front of the group something happened. A fear I’d never felt before grabbed me by the gut. The eyes in the room like laser beams blocking the connectivity between my mouth and brain. I was completely stuck, unable to speak. As the teacher became more and more aggravated my anxiety grew, causing me to retreat further into myself.

The same fear lingered for years, even into high school. Teachers, who seemed to take pleasure in calling on anyone who didn’t seem to be paying attention or gave off a confused aura. I was the perfect target. Vengeance on the students who didn’t study or understand the material. Most days I wanted to be invisible.

The school wasn’t the best time for me, but there were a few good teachers along the way. High school was a bit better. I was spending large chunks of time typing up vampire fiction, inspired by books that I had read in middle school, most of Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, and Bram Stoker’s Dracula (this was before the Twilight era).

The books were trash, and I never published or finished them. They featured teen vampires, inspired by myself and my friends, getting into fights and mischief. The stories had plenty of sex and violence, giving me credit with my peers as a real “artist”.

Truthfully they were tasteless.

Telling those stories was like therapy. Back then almost everything I set my eyes upon was fiction, so I used fiction to work through many questions and scenes from my own life.

There was a period in my life when I wasn’t writing. The entire time I felt as if something were missing. Chatter in my head, telling me to search without sharing what I should be searching for.

My deepest and most accurate form of communication had been cut off, and I hadn’t even realized it.

Finally, something inspired me to write, I started writing and I kept writing. It was easy and enjoyable, just like coming home to a plush sofa and a Netflix movie.

The more I write the more I understand about life, the world, myself, about relationships, and the people I care about. It is like a key opening up greater understandings.

Spilling my thoughts onto a screen through a rubber coated keyboard is a very soothing practice. Creating a blog post doesn’t feel like work, in reality, it is more of a meditation.

Gazing upon the softly glowing screen I sit perched in a nest of pillows, wrapped in a soft red blanket. Relaxed, bathing in the softly glowing lights of our living room, I am calm and still.

Why I Took a Half Day for a Dental Appointment

 

I worked vigorously through the morning, racing against the clock. In preparation for my upcoming dental appointment, I’d taken a half day and needed to condense my most important tasks into a smaller window than usual.

In the future I plan to schedule my appointments at the very end of the day, a lesson learned from this past appointment, but this obligation was already set in stone.

My teeth have always been a problem. Cavities have always grown easily in my mouth. “Bad teeth run in the family, kid.” My grandmother and mother would say. My resistance to brushing as a child undoubtedly complicated the issue.

It doesn’t feel right, brushes, picks, and gloves invading and overwhelming my senses. Still, despite times of great discomfort, I take care of my teeth. If I don’t they will surely fall out.

I pull into the dental office’s shared parking lot sixteen minutes before my scheduled appointment, eyes bouncing from side to side, seeking a shaded spot. At the back of the building, I find a quiet space to gather myself. Here I will sit until exactly five minutes before my scheduled time.

Alone in the car, I close my eyes and focus on the feelings in my feet while counting my breaths. It is my car ritual, arrive early, meditate and do breathing exercise. After a few moments, I am feeling charged and ready.

I glance upward at the digital clock on the car radio on the dash to my right, eleven forty-nine. Still too early to go inside. Time to kill.

There is a nagging in my brain, are reminder that I haven’t done anything for my website this week, “I should shoot a video! I bet I can edit it and create the title art before I have to be inside.”

Despite almost no desire to compete with others, I’m always challenging myself.  I grab my iPhone from the dusty, grey, cupholder and prepare the camera. With one more deep breath, my finger slides over the record button on the glass screen. “Here goes.”

 

 

My goal is always to get the video in three takes, although it can be five to ten when the dogs are around.

Today, in the quiet car, I quickly shot two short videos. Most often I feel as if the videos get better on the second or third take, however, today was more of a “get it right on your first try” kind of day, perhaps because I was feeling the rush.

So how did I feel after the dentist? I have a small headache but relaxing at home with soothing music and writing this story (being creative) has kept it from growing into a monster. Also sitting in a dark room helps me greatly.

Feel The Music Deeply

I’ve always loved music.

Angelic notes give me goosebumps, making the top of my head tingle as the vibrations radiate through every inch of my flesh. If an artist is feeling a strong emotion while singing I become like a mirror, my mood instantly reflecting back the feelings of the vocalist.

My favorite songs have words that draw me in, painting a story. Sometimes I close my eyes, allowing myself to drift away to magical places that only exist in my daydreams. Vivid music videos playing in my head made up of clips and bits from things I’ve seen and imagined through my entire life.

Song lyrics get stuck in my brain and never leave. As I start to memorize a song the magic videos in my head begin to appear. Once done the same video will continue to play for that song for the rest of my life.

The music videos in my mind keep me company. I am adding more videos to my library every year, movies that I can recall on demand, pressing play in my head. All I have to do is close my eyes.

Both songs below have two of my favorite mind videos.

 

Get the onesie here – http://amzn.to/2s7hldH

 

To Everyone Who “Can’t Meditate”

Mindfulness and meditation have been a big part of my life for several years now. I’m always happy to share with people how helpful meditation is for me.

Unfortunately almost everyone I talk to about meditation “can’t meditate”.

“I wish I could meditate. My mind isn’t made for that!” or “I can’t stand being still”, a few of the most common excuses why people tell me they “can’t meditate”.

People assume meditation was always easy for me, while in reality, nothing could be further from the truth.

I started meditation because of a deep internal need for change.

My twenty-fifth birthday was coming at me like an out of control locomotive with a sleeping driver. The number made me uneasy and it was coming too fast. Like a doe, hypnotized by the headlights, I felt helpless to stop it.

Something was wrong, missing, empty and completely inexpressible. I’d been searching my entire life for something. . . peace, stillness, answers, meaning maybe?

In my mid to early twenties, I was very out of touch with my own feelings and emotions.

At first, my meditations were distracted, plagued with racing, unwanted, thoughts. When the goal was to count to five without allowing your mind to wander off, sometimes I only got to two or three before starting over, and over, and over.

It was hard, but as I kept on it things got easier.

Finally, with Buddhism, I was beginning to unlock the tools needed to understand and shape my own mind. Somedays progress crawled along at what felt like a snail’s pace, but every week as I continued to practice it got easier.

As I’ve grown older and incorporated mindfulness into my life over the years, things have greatly improved. I still meditate every day but the way I meditate has changed.

I meditate all the time. At times I may meditate for only a few minutes or seconds, whenever I need to calm and relax my mind, think more clearly, or gather the words for an important conversation.

Meditation has become the tool that I use to recalibrate my brain. Sitting tall I close my eyes and bow my head as I take in a deep, slow breath. As I breathe in I focus on the feelings of my feet on the ground or my butt in a chair (depending on where I am).

As my lungs expand I shift my focus to the feelings of my breath. With eyes closed, I listen and feel, asking myself – “what’s happening now?” Depending on available time I may stay for a while, eyes closed, nose pointed at the floor.

This micro-meditations can be as quick as a few breaths. I’ve even learned to meditate with my eyes open, although I wonder if I have a blank stare when I do this.

I take the time that I need and if I get flustered I remind myself not to rush, gently whispering in my own ear “relax, stay in the present”.

Every day I am needing to remind myself less and less, thanks to a very conscious choice I made years ago to change my life.

Dear people who “can’t meditate” – keep trying.