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The power of a sound bath

14 Sep

10:19 pm

I think I mentioned in my last post that I recently spent a week on the west coast of Costa Rica, mainly to do yoga, but also to be alone to process the fact that there are changes and evolutions going on in my life, and there is grief, and I am having a hard time dealing with all that AND keeping everything else in place.  I only spent four days there–two were traveling to get there, and then, the final two days were spent getting home (and, stressing:  I was booked through Miami on the way home, and Hurricane Dorian was just picking up speed that week and it looked like it was going to blow through Florida).  Anyway, my time there was short and I only had four days, but four days was enough to see a transformation.

WhirrWhirrWhirrrrrrrring.  This was the sound of my mind–the sound of my incessant thinking–during the first two days (well, all the time).  I filled those days taking yoga, walking along the beaches (gosh, the Pacific is immense and amazing–and warm!?–down there), eating fish and rice and fruit (my perfect diet, I must say), and going to bed.  Yet, my mind!  Would.  Not.  Stop.  Thinking.  JESUS.  I mean, I could literally hear the whirring sound…like a swarm of mosquitoes, filling my skull to the brim, spinning in one huge loud circle of BUZZ, WHIRR, WHIRRRRRRRRING.

On the evening of the second day, I decided to take a sound bath.  The instructor was fantastic–the resort where I took my classes had some of the best teachers I’ve ever had, actually–and the sound bath was really cool.  I mean, I’ve participated in sound “healing” ceremonies before; and yeah, afterward I do feel calmer and I can remember at least a few interesting visuals that came up during the ceremony; but, I have never felt anything beyond that.  I enjoy them, that’s true, but I’m not sure I would consider them to be healing, per se.

Until I woke up on the third day feeling…quiet.  QUIETED.  Happy.  Calm, clear, optimistic.  Like, the sense of clarity was unmistakably uplifting!  The whirring had stopped.  What the…?  I walked along the beach that morning, noticing that all my confusing, conflicted thoughts and thought tendencies and thought patterns–this mental weight that had been bogging me down for the past two days–had just gone away.  The whirring was gone.  Now, I don’t know if I should credit the sound bath, but…

The following night, my last, I went to my second sound bath–and this time, I listened a bit more closely to what the teacher was saying before he started in on his instruments (I have to admit, during the first class, I was just like, yeah, uh huh, right).  And what he said was:  by utilizing sound waves, sound baths ultimately allow your higher mind to distance itself from your lower mind (the thinking, the judging, the ego mind)–which helps to quiet the lower mind.  I was like, what?  That is literally exactly how I felt; that I had this newfound sense of clarity because the whirring just seemed to have ceased, and my higher mind was now fully present–quiet, not as judgmental, open.  This, in turn, made me feel happier, friendlier to self and others, more willing to have conversations with strangers, more able to take in and enjoy the scenery…

At home now, what this clearer, quieter state of mind has allowed me to do is be more positive, in general, and resist negativity (from my own mind, from others).  I don’t feel like judging people or situations or getting angry; I just want to let it go and continue to vibrate, as it were, at my higher, quieter level.  It’s helped me feel and be more positive toward my relationships, my job, my coworkers; it’s helped me let things roll off my back and maintain a sense of calm happiness.

This feeling was really strong during the first week after I got back; I’m on my second week now, and while I don’t feel as happy and/or quieted, I find myself going back to that place of quiet clarity in my mind.  I mean, even if I no longer presently own that sense of clarity, I can remember I once did and what it felt like–which goes a long way toward cultivating (I guess you could say) that state of mind.

It was definitely worth suspending my disbelief!  Now, I feel like there is hope, there is a place to go, there IS clarity and quiet to be had–it’s just a matter of finding the tools to get there and developing those tools to keep you there.

Being here, and now

23 Jun

10:37 pm

Just a quick post tonight to say, be here, now.

DDG, try to stay in the moment and, be here, in the now.

After a great workout this morning–where I thought of nothing but how nervous my job is making me and that I have GOT to get some Xanax or something to bring along with me to the next team meeting if I’m EVER going to get through the presentation that I’ve been tasked with giving–and a nice evening on the beach; I realized just how hard it has become for me to stay in the moment these days.  If I’m not obsessively checking my work email and making my work to-do lists, I’m checking personal email or scrolling through Facebook and LinkedIn.  I am always thinking about something, or thinking I should be thinking about something; I am forever making plans, or making contingency plans.  It’s starting to feel a bit obsessive.

When I was getting sober, I didn’t feel so wound up.  When I was working at my last job, I didn’t feel so controlling.  I feel like there is a lot riding on me staying focused these days, especially at my new job.  I do have a lot to get done–thing is, I don’t have to do it all perfectly, and I probably could get away with not getting it all done!  I keep telling myself I have nothing to prove, yet, around every corner, I am doing things that scream, Love me!

Lately, I’ve been feeling like if I let one thing go, the entire sweater will come undone, the house will collapse, everyone will find out that I’m really an imposter.  And let’s face it, these days, I’d rather not be writing most of what I have to write as a science writer, sitting on a beach in a meditative state.  I’d MUCH RATHER not be pretending to care about chasing after the rewards of the rat race.  Island life taught me that it’s OK to reject these ideas and it’s even more OK to choose to live a life that does not glorify them.  Yet, I’m in this new life out of choice, so…I had better learn to live in it without having panic attacks!

There MUST be some value in literally refusing to let one’s mind wander.  You know, down that road of distraction via social media, or negative thinking by way of obsessing over events yet to happen.  I’ve been guilty of both of those lately, and I have to believe that forcing myself to think positively–differently, at least, than I have been doing lately–will have some sort of impact on moving my thoughts to a different place and/or new level, to staying in the here and now.

I MISS that me, that girl who somehow, after all her time chasing and competing on the mainland, was able to finally unwind and unplug and learn how to just sit, and breathe, and embrace the rich nothingness of the moment.  These days, I am preoccupied and miss the richness of a lot of my moments.  My goal in the next few weeks is to focus on learning to stay here, now, while also getting my work done; to breathing through my anxiety and thinking beyond it; to remaining at least somewhat of a willing participant in the life I have chosen.

I know it won’t be forever, and I’ll come around to finding a new here and now.  But for now?  Stay in the moment, DDG.  Be here, and now.

The holidays, and my sober advice

23 Dec

10:41 pm

This holiday has been stressful to me, I have to admit.  We’re in a different place and time, and a different space, within ourselves.  All this change, combined with all this self-imposed people pleasing–well, it grates, especially since it’s one of the reasons I drank in the first place.  If only I didn’t have to do this, if only I could just say no, I wouldn’t have to drink…is how it used to go down in my mind.  Still sort of does, on some level, I guess.

I remember feeling so unappreciated (kind of how I’ve been feeling lately, but I see it for what it is–partly of my own creation), and drinking at that feeling.  I remember drinking at people, if they pissed me off; or at bad situations, if they didn’t go my way; or at being let down, if my expectations weren’t met.  It sounds hard to believe to people who don’t use alcohol, but it’s how we keep rationalizing our compulsive and binge drinking, even when it screws up our heads and lives:  before we’re able to think it through, pick it apart, and realize what we can change and what we’ve created in our own minds–we drink.  Bam!  We’re drunk and shit sucks, and we’re down the same hole.

I can’t tell you how much I’ve wanted to say “Fuck it” the past few weeks, months, seasons.  It’s a feeling that builds and builds, a little “fuck it” here, a little more “fuck it” there, and…you know how it ends.  Rest assured, I am not going to drink, but I don’t think I’ve felt so close to wanting to say, fuck it, and go and get what’s MINE.

I miss having something of my own to take the edge off; I miss being able to just say, fuck it, I’m done, I’m drinking wine now.  Is what I’m really wanting and needing, though, some time for myself, to nurture and heal and appreciate what I’ve accomplished and who I am?  Is what I’m really needing some simple self-care?  Because, in that caring of self, as a sober person, I can totally see my role (my expectations and reactions) in creating a bad situation.  It’s also a way to reinforce self-respecting behavior (like, I feel this way and so, in respect for my legitimate feelings, I say no, or I don’t do this).

And I told you to be patient, and I told you to be kind

When you’re actively drinking, there is no self-reflection; it feels SO good to drink at it–whether it’s your anger at what someone did to you, or your feeling of frustration at not having handled the situation differently, or your belief that you are helpless to change it anyway–and then, to hold onto it until the bottle’s gone and you’ve blasted off, not to return until you come back the next morning (or afternoon) and realize that you’ve so lost.  Whatever there was to win, you definitely did not win that.

Letting go is the hardest part, it really is; it’s all about a higher self, and higher behavior; and sometimes it feels like your brain is pulling itself apart.

What I’m increasingly tired of is, I never get to escape…to the magic realm.  You know???  To the romantic place.  To the sensual world.  To the realm of ridiculous fantasy…which is what wine and drugs do, is they help you CREATE the ridiculous fantasy, and it feels so damn good to be there for a while!?  The ancient Greeks knew how important wine was to their conversational gatherings, right?  God, if only I came of age in archaic Greece!?

Regular life just gets so monotonous!  I miss wine…enhancing music, the present, the past, the holidays, my relationships, my dreams.  I miss the old me, and I have missed that crazy, romantic bitch ever since I got sober and had to let a large part of her go!?  I know, this way is so much better–I can actually hear music, have a present that is worth living, have a past that doesn’t haunt me, experience holidays that go off without a hitch, cultivate relationships that don’t crumble or blow up, and, um actually make real some of those dreams.  I just have to wonder, will I ever truly be able to smile easily, and without some part of my mind thinking, God, it would be SO much easier to find this entertaining if I had some wine?

I guess I’m feeling uninspired lately, a bit cynical, and just sort of a combination of tired and under-appreciated; I know I can remedy all of this with self-care, which includes just making some other choices.  And, it’s a blessing of being sober to not only have choices, but know that I have choices.

Anyway, my two cents is this:  whenever you feel like drinking this holiday, just remind yourself that IF you’re drinking AT someone, or something, it’s SO only going to fuck you up.  That someone or something does not know, and does not care; and worse, it won’t solve or change anything.  Remember, drinking AT yourself, or your problems, or your letdowns is not going to change you, or your problems, or your letdowns.  And, while all this advice sucks and stings, this, too, shall pass.  Give it a minute, three, a few hours–hang in there–because this, too, shall pass.  Your higher self will come back to the fore, and you’ll be able to agree with me/you, and say, right, OK, I got this.  I don’t have to drink now.  I don’t have to drink.  Exhale, this sucks, I still hurt, but I don’t have to drink.

Thank you, friends; I am sort of tearing up because I know I am talking to myself now, and I know that you’ve been listening and hearing me for the past six holiday seasons before this one.

Merry Christmas, all, and to all a good, sober night.

It’s crazy how things have changed

1 Jul

1:27 am

I am at home (like, home home) now, with my immediate family, and it’s crazy how *I* am the one, it seems, who is the most sober of all!  And by that I mean, irritated by how much other people are drinking, unwilling to really care about fixing them or holding onto what I cannot change, and um, SHOCKED at how late people eat and how LONG they drink into the night!?  What am I, old?

I watched them all pass out in their beds (or on chairs in the kitchen) while I went up to my room to do yoga and meditate.  (They’re kind of one in the same for me these days; and frankly, I have had such back problems that I cannot go a day without doing yoga and most definitely not more than two without working out…  But, it’s also because it’s just how I MUST DO if I am to remain centered, sober, calm and able to let everyone else’s issues and questions and concerns and gossip bounce off of me!)

So, yeah.  It is crazy how things have changed.  I’m also feeling much more willing, like I said, to accept people for who they are–and not try to change them, and not worry about me changing for them.  Like, someone grilled me about not having health insurance at the moment, and at first I felt bad, alarmed, like, oh, yeah, maybe I should get a catastrophic policy.  I had insurance, but let it lapse–and since then, well, I simply don’t worry about it.  This family member worries about stuff like that; yet, here I am, doing yoga and not drinking as preventive health, and here he is, drinking like a fish and then, downing a pot of coffee the next morning.

I am feeling super-weird about keeping this blog anonymous from my family anymore, but…I realized after talking about my sobriety last night with family members that it has to be the right moment for the reveal–and I have to be extremely ready to explain myself–and it’s not, and I’m not.  So, I keep putting it off…even though it’s starting to feel like a huge lie, a big withholding that equates to a lie.  Then again, I GET to get this; I deserve whatever choice I choose when it comes to my privacy and space, and method for getting sober and somewhat spiritually fit.  When the time comes, I’ll know it.

Till then, um, I LOVE who I have become, and I LOVE what the “right now” is for me; even IF there is extreme uncertainty (which I can deal with, and have dealt with for years as a freelance writer), well, I still have me, I have my spiritual center, I have my sobriety–which is frankly fucking invaluable.  I mean, priceless.  I mean, I’d take no job and no health insurance and a small rental in the middle of someplace that I’m not sure I like living (but am content in myself, so it really doesn’t matter where the “where” is anymore) ANY DAY over having things, and a big home, and “security” (which cannot exist without fear).  ANY DAY.

End of rant.  Good night, my sober friends.  Thank you for being here, with me, all these six years–you have no idea how liberating your understanding and support has been!

You don’t have to be awesome, or win

25 May

4:16 pm

Yes, that’s right, folks!  At 43, soon to be 44 next month, I have at last made the realization that, nope, you don’t have to be awesome, and you don’t have to win.

You don’t have to do anything amazing, or challenging even; you don’t have to do it perfectly, or better than someone else; you don’t have to win any prizes.

Life goes on; life will go on, whether you publish a book, or open a business, or make millions as a lawyer or doctor.  NONE of that really matters; what matters, I say, is the fact that you got to fall in love with a dog, and walk him–he laughing into your tears with his tongue–until you stopped crying and starting laughing with him.  Our boy is gone now, but he lives on in my mind; and most days, that’s the only thing that feels like it matters to me.  And, I’m not sure if I am supposed to feel liberated by that or straight up SCARED to death that I am getting closer and closer to just not giving any fucks anymore!

There is so much consumerism here–buying and selling of things, of work, of jobs, of people, of relationships, of experiences–in America.  Maybe it really is everywhere, but, man, does there seem to be a desire here, almost a frenzied one, to acquire experiences.  I’m in on it, too, of course, and as frenzied as the next person–and enthusiastically so most days!  Yet, I try to remind myself of the existence of my higher power, the higher things, the lessening and loosening and lessons of sobriety.  Life is about the wind, the breath being taken away; the letting go.  Sometimes I do feel…estranged, I guess, in a “land of plenty” where there is never enough, and in some cases, feels like nothing.

I am trying to write these days, and all the usual bullshit comes up; somehow, though, I had this thought the other day that it just doesn’t matter–for real.  It’s a thought that I’ve tried believing before, and I got to a certain level and then you know, went back to being my normal competitive, hard-on-myself self.  Yet, the other day, I just thought, you know, you’re going on 44, you don’t have to win anymore.  You don’t have to get into a good school (did it, twice), be the best in that school (failed at that, but I’m sure I tried and tried), do this and that and the other (did it all, in search of “growth” and “challenge”); you don’t have to get another degree and even if you do, you don’t have to do well in the program!  You don’t have to DO anything or BE anyone except…yourself.  A person who will maybe be loved and maybe be forgotten; that is life, and that is what we fight for, and against, it seems, every single day.

At this, I drank.  I drank so much trying to be and do and achieve and win–and also, to NOT be and do and achieve and win.  Now, I don’t want to drink at this; I have accepted that this is how I feel sometimes, and what I think, and well, maybe the reality that we all have to face now and again in this lifetime.

It’s so hard not being hard on myself; it’s so hard for all of us, I assume, to not be hard on ourselves.  And, I would venture to say that, even IF someone tells you, Oh, DDG, don’t be so hard on yourself; in the back of their mind, they’re thinking and plotting and planning because there seems to be so very little example here (I’ll just call this world USA, Inc.) of actually choosing to not do, to not achieve, to not regard the world and your place in it as part of a game whose very existence hinges on your winning.

I’m not sure I know anyone who has completely said, fuck it, and decided to do away with the need for validation, by self or others.  I am not there yet, but there is a voice inside me that is screaming, quietly, DDG, it does not matter what you do, just be.  Just breathe.  You can try stuff, and do stuff; and trying it is good enough; doing it is good enough.  There are no prizes, and there is no winning, and when you die, your name and your achievements will not really be remembered as much as who you were, and what your presence meant to people.  So, just be.

Ahh–if ONLY I could practice this now-ness all the time, and not for about three minutes a day!

Social media–helpful or harmful?

16 Aug

8:46 am

Ahh, social media. Suffice to say, I think we all have love-hate relationships with it.

Lately, I have been quiet: head down, working, job searching, and really, simply trying to enjoy life outside of the computer screen once I actually manage to turn it off. The writing is on the wall (literally, since I’m a writer) that, while I like what I do–and it’s brought me a lot of pride and sense of accomplishment to have made my living for two years as a freelancer–I don’t earn enough money! I mean, I won’t bore you with the deets again, but I simply need to earn more. And, we’re not talking a little bit more; we’re talking, graduate student loans and supplemental income for my mom and buying a vineyard in Greece before I turn 50 more! I have always been driven, and responsible when it comes to earning my keep–I never received help from my parents. However, these past two years have put me nearly in the red (I am past red, let’s face it).

All that aside, I am doing well. Feeling strong. Recovering from my trip (where I acquired a mosquito-borne illness that among other things, I think, has been contributing to me feeling like the bug and not the windshield many days this month). In a weaker moment, I stood in front of the shelves of wine bottles at the grocery store for about 15 minutes one night, I was feeling that desperate to “fix” my depression.

BUT, my practically sole sane thought was the loudest of the bunch: WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? Like, what happens after that first bottle, practically speaking? Another bottle? Another $10? Another one? Again, another $10? It really is amazing to find myself thinking rationally about this, to be able to be MINDFUL enough to think past the craving and say, Self, this is not a solution; this IS THE PROBLEM.

I started blogging about getting sober over two years ago. I am on Facebook and will remain on Facebook for professional reasons. I have been able to dodge Twitter, mainly, but not at a cost to my professional life–it’s a cost I’m willing to pay, in exchange for my sanity. I don’t do Instagram, but I think it’d be more difficult to resist if I had a data plan on my phone (which I don’t, because I don’t earn enough money as a freelance writer, which I MIGHT, actually, if I was on Twitter–you see where this rabbit hole is going).

I’m not a stranger to social media, and all the benefits it offers. However, lately, social media has had me perplexed. Vexed. It feels inauthentic, and what’s more, empty. I think that participating in an echo chamber like Twitter, or Facebook, or yes, even these blogs–while amazingly helpful–can be part of the problem. This “thinking problem” that seems to be part of the reason we self-soothe with alcohol, or other substances. We are already so much in our heads–afflicted by ruminative, navel-gazing tendencies–is social media making this better, or worse? Even if it’s GOOD navel-gazing, is it ever really, for “people like us?” For people who need to Turn It Off, more or less? I understand there is a fine line between denial and mindfulness, and I’m having a hard time seeing it these days.

I guess this is why I’ve stayed off this blog for almost two weeks now? I just feel like…forever hashing it out–well, it’s just not working for me the way it used to. Maybe I need to collect myself and move onto a new project? We’ll see…

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: after the initial contact–getting sober, seeing your faults, comparing and contrasting everything you do to drinking and then, to abstinence–it’s OK to simply let it go. It really is OK to let it go.

On that note, I’m going to sign off and do just that. 🙂

Words, words, words

4 May

11:44 am

Well, that was interesting. I just got off Facebook and this blog and blah blah blah. Words, words, words. If anyone understands the peril of relying too heavily on words to explain, define, or clarify, it’s me!

You know, lately I’ve been feeling uncomfortable with all “social” media. Without going into it too much, it triggers me. I guess I have residual anxiety, but even anticipating a response–any kind–to a Facebook post, or a blog post, or an email makes me feel…uneasy. I don’t need this, and neither does my sobriety.

I’ve also been really struggling with the navel-gazing aspect to sobriety and to writing about the process of getting sober. Maybe I’ve been doing it too long and simply need a break. Let it be known that all is well, and words are only words–they can’t even come close to expressing the infinity of every moment, let alone of a life lived. All I can say is, this is a new post, and a new day, and I might simply stop writing about my sobriety in favor of writing about other stuff on here–or not! We’ll see.

On that note, I’m going to the beach. Or for a walk. Either would be great, as long as it doesn’t involve my brain. 🙂

Remember: your drinking and your sobriety, as a story source once told me, is only a part of your life. It’s not the whole story, that’s for sure. YOU have control over how you construct your reality. Today, my reality will consist of sun, sand, a very quieted mind, laundry, cleaning, quieting the mind again, job searching (ugh!), volunteer searching (yay!), and enjoying being outside myself. Maybe more walking, a little Bebel Gilberto, and some massive cheesy pasta dish later when the coqui frogs start making noise and let me know (again) that all IS really as it should be and I can relax into that notion. (I must admit, animals seem to make up my “higher power” to a large extent: doves, frogs, crickets, and my dogs, to name a few.)

Happy Sunday, all. Small part of a big, big, big reality, is my mantra today. And, let it go, let it go, let it go. 🙂

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