lessons

The Zen of Cooking

I love cooking. I love baking. I love finding recipes and making food that people enjoy. And yeah, I really love eating it too!

But certain things I hate doing. Like chopping potatoes. It seems to take FOREVER! Especially if I’m chopping it into little pieces to make fried country potatoes or hash. Normally I try to rush through it as fast as I can, usually managing to cut myself in the process.

But today…something was different today.

I stopped. I slowed down. I took each slice of potato separately (instead of trying to stack three or four slices together that all slide apart every which way). I made slow, deliberate cuts in each piece. Chopping them slowly and carefully.

Instead of being frustrated that it was taking so long, I found I was enjoying the process!

It became a sort of meditation. Making myself slow down. The sound of the knife as it chopped through the white flesh of the potato. The feel of it scraping across the cutting board. The sight of the bowl of cut potato slowly rising until it made a little mountain with ‘boulders’ that kept rolling off the side.

Breathe In. Slice. Breathe out. Slice.

How many of us can say we take the time to enjoy what we are cooking? Not just the things we make after, how they smell or taste. But the act of cooking itself.

The smell of the herbs as they heat up in the pan. The smoothness of the garlic as I chop and press it. The spice of the habanero and jalapeno peppers as I toss them in. The sound of the food sizzling in the pan. The feel of the wooden spoon in my hand.

So many times I’m rushing my cooking, my mind on so many other things. Trying to get it done so we can do other things on our busy schedule. Or just cooking to get it done so I can get to the funner aspect of eating.

Yet maybe I’ve found a new way to enjoy cooking. Letting it slow me down.

Today made me ask why I don’t slow down more. What gets in my way that I can’t enjoy the act of cooking? Of life? Because let’s face it. Very rarely do I (or a lot of other people) really let ourselves experience the world around us. When was the last time you just sat and watched a flower? Or a river as it rushed by? A bird in your backyard? Or just sat in meditation for more than a minute, letting your thoughts drift and balancing yourself with the world around you?

The answer? It’s been a while. But I want to change that.

I need meditation. I need balance. The more I seek it, the more energy and happiness I feel in my life. I know, people make it seem all mystical and something hard to achieve. All the mantras and poses and whatever else that they try to sell you online.

But really meditation is just slowing down. Focusing on a task to the exclusion of all other thoughts in your mind. Engaging your senses and allowing yourself to feel, see, touch, taste, smell. To forget about this practice and that test and that bill that’s due next week or an appointment you promised to make. To let your mind drift, slow down.

I always try to make meditation so hard. But it doesn’t have to be. It can be something as simple as slowing down.

It may seem odd to find your zen cutting potatoes. But that’s exactly what I did.

What’s your Zen?

Monday Meditation: The Power of Disconnecting

Soft music plays on my computer. Incense burns beside me, white sage and lavendar, to calm and cleanse. The crystals are arrayed in a grid before me. Tiger’s eye for focus. Selenite to cleanse. Citrine for happiness. Carnelian for energy. Amethyst for clear thinking. Snowflake obsidian for protection. Dragon’s blood for creativity. I close my eyes, taking a deep breath in. Letting my mind drift, falling into the music. Clearing it of all the clutter that bogs the modern mind. All the negativity and drama. All the fear and uncertainty. It’s like a shower for your mind. Coming out clean and refreshed.

I posted a little while ago about my discovery of crystals and meditation. I admit, I used to laugh at it. I was taught to fear it. That is was evil. That it was going to send me to hell. But growing up has taught me a few things. That the only truly evil thing in this world is to live with a closed mind. To not be open to new things. Because sometimes the thing you need the most is the thing you never thought you would do.

Like a lot of other people in this world I’m caught up in electronics. I’m on Facebook way too much. I’ve been haunting Instagram lately, trying to get my photography out there. And even though I try, you can’t help but be caught up in the latest ‘oh my god can you believe this’ drama that the media cooks up. The fake news, the people that believe it, the storm that never seems to go away.

Sometimes its nice to remind myself that I need to disconnect. To get away.

Yesterday I went trials riding with my boyfriend and some other friends. The place is off the grid. No phones. No messages. No media. Just a whole day in the sunshine. In the mountains. Talking. Laughing. With nothing but the bird song and the thrum of the motorcycle engine. Working to perfect that wheelie. Speaking of which, finally got my nose wheelie! Working to get up that rock without hitting that skid plate. Working every muscle in my body until I’m exhausted. Happy. Cleansed.

Tomorrow I’m going to go horse back riding. No phones. No messages. No media. Just me and the horse, talking to each other. Working together. Feeling the power of this 800 lb animal beneath me. The energy of it. I always end up exhausted and dirty, but feeling amazing.

Tomorrow night I’m doing yoga. Started doing it two times a week with the boyfriend. 45 minutes of no messages. No media. No phones. Just stretching and listening to the calming music. Feeling the energy flowing through my body. Feeling the muscles stretch. Discovering the muscles that haven’t stretched in a while!

And meditating in the mornings. As I was meditating this morning, I felt driven to write this little piece. Because I’m realizing how connected I am to my phone. I was on it first thing this morning, before I even got out of bed. And why? What was so important? Nothing, really.

It’s easy to get caught up in drama. In news. In negativity. I don’t realize how much of that stuff I carry within me, long after I’ve shut off the phone. How much it affects me.

Not to say I won’t ever get on Facebook again. Obviously I will. I’ll message people, talk to them on the phone. I’ll watch a TV show tonight. Because there’s nothing wrong with technology. With the modern world. With entertainment. I mean, this blog is my journal. I want to grow my photography, and that takes social media. I’m going to school to be a technical writer, and most of that’s online nowadays.

It’s when we get too caught up in the negativity. In binge watching (oh yes, I’ve lost many days to watching TV). In obsessively scrolling for the latest ‘news’ from our friends. In the fake news and drama that it becomes hurtful. Harmful. Wasteful.

But I wanted to write this piece as a reminder to myself. And to whomever else might need it this morning. We need to take time to cleanse ourselves. To disconnect from the world. To wash off all the negativity and drama that life sometimes feeds us. To stop that ‘blah’ feeling, the one that seems to drag us down but we don’t know what it is.

So find the things that cleanse you. Maybe its exercise. Maybe its curling up with a good book and a cup of coffee. Maybe its crystals. Or meditation. Or playing a game of pool with your friends. Whatever it is. Just disconnect from the phone and go do it.

Find the energy that feeds you. That cleanses you. Disconnect and find your own peace.

 

Creating My Little ‘Me Space’ in the Office

There are two things I love doing in this world. Walking into a bookstore, inhaling the smell of all the new books, pulling in the creative energy of all the unexplored stories. And my new favorite, walking through a crystal store and connecting with stones.

I know, you might be thinking I’m crazy. I grew up believing that people who liked crystals and incense and things were crazy, weird, etc. But ever since I was a little girl I’ve always felt drawn to rocks. To the earth. It’s one of the reasons I love my move to Colorado. I love the energy of the mountains. Their strength. Their timelessness. Their power. There’s nothing more cleansing and rejuvenating for me than a long walk on a quiet mountain trail (if you can find a quiet mountain trail anymore around here).

A year or so ago I started getting introduced to the idea of crystals. That certain stones have properties that can affect us, our emotional and physical well-being, and the environment around us. I’m just a baby in this, but I love learning more about it. The more I learn, the more I come to understand that there is so much about our world that we do not know. That if we open ourselves up to new things, we might be amazed at what we find.

Today I found a new crystal store. The trip in itself was fun, because I discovered this old, seemingly abandoned amusement park right down the road from me! I didn’t really have time to explore it, but it looked pretty awesome.

The purpose for the visit was not only just to get out of the house, but also to find some things to decorate my side of the office desk. To create a positive energy space that I would want to sit at. That would be conducive to creating. To writing. To doing my art. To doing my photography. A space that would be me.

The store had everything, and I just spent some time walking through it. Not looking for any particular thing, just wandering around. Waiting for a stone to ‘talk’ to me. Not physically talk, obviously. The only way I can describe it is like a very soft humming in my bones, in my body. The moment that stone connects with me. Sometimes I find stones that are just pretty and beautiful. Other times I connect with stones because of something going on in my life. Today I connected with a little piece of mookaite. Didn’t know what it did, just knew that it needed to come home with me. Come to find out mookaite aids in helping stomach issues, and that’s what I’ve been dealing with the last couple of days.

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Mookaite (a form of jasper). Inspiration. Problem solving. Shielding. Helps with stomach issues.

I got four other stones along with the mookaite, one a pretty geode I just got because it was beautiful. Along with an incense burner, with some white sage and lavender sticks, because I love things that cleanse and balance. And I just love the smell of lavender!

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Now some may scoff and say “Do you really think these rocks will cure anything?”

I shrug my shoulders and say “I don’t know. But I know how they make me feel. How the thought of having them around makes me feel. And if nothing else they are beautiful.”

So now these sit on my desk, along with some other crystals and my snow leopard statue. I have loved snow leopards since I was a little girl, always having to go see them at the zoo. Recently I was reading about spirit animals, and I think that if they are true, than a snow leopard is mine. Connection to the Earth. Balance. Connection to the inner wisdom inside of you (I’ve often been told I’m very self-aware, even if I haven’t always listened to my own wisdom). Inability to tackle problems face to face. Preferring not to jump into a fight or unknown situation until I know that I’m not going to be attacked from behind by some problem (that one is me to a tee). Silent (I can talk to people I connect with, but love communicating through writing so much more). Solitary (I like people but as an introvert I gain my power from time spent alone). I am slow to anger but when it is roused it is fierce. Yet if I do not find an outlet for that anger it is often internalized, causing all sorts of problems.

So I have a little snow leopard statue that watches over me, alongside my stones and my incense. And while it may just be a ‘peace of mind’ thing, or just that my little corner of the office now feels like ‘me’, I do feel a shift in the room. In my creativity. It feels welcoming. I can feel the words, the pictures, the energy flowing through me. I feel calm. I feel at peace.

The point of this was not really to say “Oh my God! You have to get into crystals and spirit animals and…” Although, yes. I really enjoy my crystals and I do believe they have a healing presence in my life. Along with other natural, holistic herbs and oils I’ve been using.

The point was just rejoicing because I’m happy in my new space. And to maybe encourage anyone who reads this to create their own ‘me space’. To open their mind up to new possibilities. But mostly, if you are a creative person and you’re feeling ‘blocked’, make a ‘me space’. Fill it with the things that are you. That make you happy. That give you energy. The things that resonate with you.

Don’t be worried about what other people might say. I know there’s a lot of people that would call me weird and crazy, but I just embrace it and say “Cool! I’m weird and crazy! I’d hate to be normal.”

So be cool. Be crazy. Make your own ‘me space’. And enjoy!

 

 

When I was a Tree…

 

“If you don’t like where you are, move. You are not a tree.” Jim Rohn

Recently I picked up a camera, and found that I really like photography. It’s finding art in the world around me. The colors, shapes, lines…I love it. Going through photos today, I saw this picture. Silent sentinels, rooted to the spot, always the same as the world changes around them. And this quote popped into my mind.

I’ve recently made a lot of moves in my life. Moves that have been amazing for me. But moves that haven’t come without their own storms, and losses.

These losses have been a lot, including a good friend that I’ve now become estranged with, and have been plaguing my thoughts recently at night. But when this quote came into my mind I realized something. I’ve been a tree for most of my life. Yet I got tired of that life. I got bored. And I changed it. I became something else. Something better. And sometimes that change means leaving behind things that were a part of your past. It made me think that maybe there should be a second part to that quote. Something along the lines of “Don’t remain a tree just because that’s what all your friends are. You don’t have to remain a tree just because that’s what you’ve always been.”

Tomorrow I’m going to get up and go running. I don’t particularly like running, but I needed to do something to start working out. So three days a week the last two weeks I’ve been going for a run when I get up. I run slower than a turtle through molasses, but I run. The first few days were rough. But now I find myself looking forward to the run. To those moments of peace. Of running past the pond, seeing the cormorants. Those surprising mornings when the pelicans show up. Watching the magpies hopping around. Feeling the energy of the mountains in the distance. The warm sun on my skin.

Right now I’m sitting here editing photos. A new plot twist for a book spinning through my head. Sitting on the deck with my boyfriend, looking out at the hazy mountains in the distance. Thinking about my story that made the finals of a contest because I finally had the guts to enter one.

The point is that my life has changed. And it changed because I moved. Not just physically, although that’s been a big part of it to. But also mentally. I moved from a place where I thought I was worthless. Where I thought my life was nothing. I moved from a place of guilt and shame and to a place where I started believing in myself. Standing up for myself. Fighting for myself.

I stopped beating myself up over things that had happened in the past. I stopped blaming things, other people, myself and just moved on. I set down all the heavy emotional baggage that I’d been carrying for so long. I took control of my life.

There’s a lot of things I can’t control in my life. I used to waste so much energy on them. What people thought of me. How other people acted. Other people’s expectations of me. Living by other people’s rules. Worrying about other people’s opinions. Letting people do things to me and not making a fuss because I didn’t want to be a ‘bitch’. I used to worry and obsess (thank you anxiety) to the point I would become paralyzed. I shut down, including my life. In my private mind, I was worthless and dumb and no matter what I tried I was a failure in other people’s minds. I became a tree. I stopped living. I stood still.

And then one day, I had enough. I was tired of being told I was wrong. I was tired of paying for other people’s issues and insecurities. I was tired of putting my life on hold so that other people didn’t feel bad. I was tired of people putting me in molds and then getting mad at me when I didn’t fit. I was tired of letting myself down, of not being the person I knew I was because of the person that I had always been. Of always apologizing for everything. Tired of running around the hamster wheel, spinning around but never going anywhere.

So I grew up. I got rid of my roots. I moved.

Is it always easy? No. Even though I’ve been enjoying running (more than I thought I would), it’s still a struggle every time I hit those first few strides. I still have to push myself up that hill. Still have to push myself to keep going. Past the doubts and fears. Past where my body starts making excuses, wanting to stop. Past that point, and onto the point where it starts to become fun and relaxing. To where my body stops complaining so much. To where I feel the positive energy. Feel it refreshing me. Feel the rush of endorphins that make me excited to get back home and start my day. And that’s just one small change I’ve made to my life recently.

It’s not easy shedding things that you’ve had for a while. Thoughts. Habits. Friends. Memories. Familiar places and things. But sometimes you have to. Sometimes you have to drop the baggage. To rip up your roots, to move away from the spot you’ve rooted yourself to. To try new things, even if you might fail. To dare to become something new, even though it’s something completely different from what you’ve been before.

Some people like being trees, and for them, that’s fine. But I think I’m done being a tree.

Don’t let people make you feel bad for not wanting to be a tree anymore. I’m really lucky. I have a boyfriend and friends around me now that push me, even on the days when I fall back into old habits. Who support me. Who love exploring and adventuring and trying new things as much as I do.

Those people who try to make you feel ashamed for moving? Usually just jealous that they can’t find the strength to do the same thing. To change their life.

I used to feel shame for changing. I thought for a while I was pretending, or being something I wasn’t. But then I realized that being a tree was when I was pretending. That the old part of my life wasn’t being true to me. And any person who wants to make me feel ashamed for changing, really doesn’t understand who I am at all.

The truth is life changes all the time. Every day is a new day to discover something new about yourself. And we are under no obligation to live our lives for anybody else other than ourselves. Or to continue living them a certain way. If you want to try something new, go for it. If you want to explore new things, go for it. If you want to shake a bad habit, good for you. If you are unhappy, move.

We are not trees, and I am so grateful for that. I never want to be a tree again.

The Unseen Side

So today is a big confession time. So today I’m facing a big fear…the dentist.

It’s been about five years since I’ve been to a dentist. A lot of that was losing my dental insurance and not being able to afford it. But a lot was just my fear. Because I hate the dentist.

I’ve never had good teeth. I’ve had braces twice. I’ve had tons of fillings and a crown and not really sure how much of my teeth are even real anymore. I know, kind of gross. And it wasn’t that I didn’t take care of myself. I did brush my teeth. I did floss. But sometimes…

Sometimes I wouldn’t for long stretches of time. Not because I didn’t know I should be. But because I didn’t think it mattered.

Because that’s the funny thing about depression. When you don’t think you’re worth anything, you can’t really be bothered to take care of yourself.

It really shocks people when I tell them that I suffer from depression because they can’t see it on me. I function really well. I laugh, I smile, I tell funny stories. I pay my bills and take showers and wear clean clothes and on all accounts I appear ‘normal’. And I am. Especially right now, I’m doing really well.

But just because I function and can control my depression doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Doesn’t mean it’s always waiting. Whispering to me. Telling me I’m worthless. Telling me I’m tired. Telling me that it’s just not worth the effort to care about myself.

A lot of my fear of facing the dentist is shame. Of admitting that I haven’t taken care of my teeth. Of admitting that I haven’t always taken care of myself. Because I didn’t think I was worth it.

It’s hard for me to admit it to my boyfriend, even though he supports me through it. It’s hard for me to deal with the consequences of it. And dealing with all of it makes it that much harder to not fall down into it. Allowing it an opening to swallow me up and back down into the dark whirlpool of my mind.

Some people think of depression as a whiner’s disease. “You could get better if you wanted to.” “Why don’t you just try to act happy?” “You just like being sad.”

Yes. I’ve had all these things said to me.

Some people might read this and think I’m making up a bunch of excuses. And sometimes, I feel like that. I feel shame. Because why can’t I take care of myself? The rational part of my mind knows. But it’s too overwhelmed by the darkness to care.

Depression isn’t an excuse. It’s not whining. It’s a trap. A trap your mind falls into. You’r’e sitting at the bottom of a whirlpool staring up at a circle of light, wishing with all of your strength you could swim to the top but being thrown back down every time you try. It’s being bombarded by voices telling you how worthless you are and how hopeless your life is. Over and over and over until you don’t know what to believe anymore. It sucks out all of your energy, so that even the effort of taking care of yourself grows to be too much. It gets so hard to battle your own mind, that you just come to a day where you can’t fight anymore. You don’t have the strength. You give up.

I’m afraid to go to the dentist, to hear what they’re going to tell me. That my teeth are all rotted, that I’m a horrible person, that I should be ashamed of myself. These are all the things my brain is telling me. Over and over and over again. No matter what the dentist actually says. No matter how kind they are. No matter how healthy my teeth might actually be.

Because that’s what my depression is to me. Shame. Shame for the hold it has over me. Shame that I have to admit how it affects me. Shame that I have to fight it everyday, even when my life is going really well.

But today I am doing what I always do. Facing my shame. Facing my depression. Battling it and winning. Taking a deep breath and walking forward, even though my fear and shame are paralyzing me. Taking a deep breath and dealing with the consequences of this disease. Taking a deep breath and admitting to myself, to those that I love, that I struggle with this monster.

I’m fortunate in that I have family who supports me. I have an amazing boyfriend who battles this monster alongside of me. Who doesn’t make me feel ashamed, who gives me hope. Who gives me the strength to fight on the days that I just can’t anymore.

It’s hard to describe just how much of a battle it is for me to walk into the dentist’s office. Knowing I’m going to have to own up to my past habits. To explain that I’ve not done the things that I know I’m supposed to do. To admit that I’ve struggled against my depression and lost, and my teeth are the result.

But I know I can do it. I can walk in. I can do battle. And I can deal with the result. Because that’s what life is with my depression. And I know that no matter what happens, I can walk out of there with hope. Because I know that I’m worth something now. I’m worth fighting for.

Writing Wednesday: Phoenix Wings, a Poem

One of the best ways I’ve found to deal with my anxiety and depression is writing. There is something soothing about putting words to paper (or screen). I have no purpose or form to my writing, other than to just write. Recently, the stuff flowing out of me has taken poem form. Even though I’m not a ‘poet’, and I don’t really study the form or anything. But I decided to start sharing some of my writing (Writing Wednesday). I hope you enjoy.

Phoenix Wings

You think you’ve got me down

But you’ve only filled me with fire

A Phoenix, eternally rising from the pit

No matter how many times you throw me down

I will rise up stronger than ever

Throw all the stones and sticks you want

I know the secrets that lie within your heart

For you might as well throw the rock at the mirror

For it is you who are afraid to look at your own heart

Blame me for whatever you wish

For the excuses and guilt will only live within your heart

You hide behind lies parading as truths

Masks that you wish to wear

Because you can’t bear the truth of your soul

That you’ve let yourself down

While I drag myself out of the pit

You wallow in the darkness because you can’t believe you’re worth more

Do not be jealous of my flames

For the fire that drives my soul

For the way that I have grown

So tear me down all you want

Throw all the chains you may

But I will rise on Phoenix wings

And simply fly away

Just Because You Haven’t, Doesn’t Mean You Can’t

“How will I know who I can become if I don’t give myself the chance to try new things, to push myself beyond my normal boundaries? Who might I be if I am away from the things that I currently use to define myself?”
― Eileen Cook

 

So for the last few years I’ve wanted a DSLR camera. You know, one of the ones with the interchangeable lenses which takes the really amazing photos you see in magazines. Or the ones framed up on people’s walls. Not that I really thought I could be a professional photographer or anything. I just loved the art aspect of it.

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