Tuesday, April 07, 2015

My Crappy Nervous System

I keep learning new stuff.  Scientists are learning more about how our brains and nervous systems work every year and I'm fascinated.  Examples:  Our DNA changes in response to our experiences and then can be inherited by our children.  Our brains and nervous systems change in response to our experiences also. 

Generational trauma is passed down through the generations - so populations like our native Americans and African Americans whose ancestors lived in severe trauma pass down damaged nervous systems.

I'm pretty convinced that I was born with a damaged nervous system.  I think a whole lot of other people are too.  I think that we experience more stressful emotions than "normal" people because our brains don't work right.  BUT we think the feelings we're having are caused by what's happening around us rather than our faulty brains.  So we get more upset and try to figure out how to change the people and circumstances around us.  It never, ever works but we don't notice that.  We just keep trying, getting ever more upset. 

Of course, we are terribly annoying people because the people around us are getting blamed for our upsets and they have no idea what we're talking about.  Finally, they just distance themselves from us or ignore us because - what else would a sane person do?!  And then we used that rejection as an explanation for some of our upsets!

It's a painful merry-go-round that digs itself ever more deeply downward.  We can live a long life in misery unless the stress causes us to contract fatal diseases that cause death before our time.  Or we can get lucky and learn that we have faulty brains and learn how to manage with our disability.

The good news is that the beginning of a better life begins with just finding out we have crappy nervous systems.  It's turns our whole world view upside down.  We stop being intensely critical of everything around us and turn our attention to healing ourselves.

The scientists are learning many, many ways of re-wiring our brains and nervous systems.  A couple of ways that are consistently helpful are meditation and yoga.  I guess those ancient wise people that invented meditation and yoga without having any scientific evidence that they would work were incredibly lucky.  Modern brain scans have been showing changes in the brain in meditators and yoga practitioners for a long time now.  Oddly, not many people seem to be paying attention.

"Mindfulness" of all kinds seems to help messed up brains and calm painful emotions.  I've experienced some mammoth change in my day-to-day life - I'm pretty peaceful.  I sleep better.  I'm less challenged by trying to get along with other people.  I'm more purposeful with my time.

Any way to slow down and pay attention, let go of my beliefs about the negative in life, and choose my purpose for each day will make for a beautiful life instead of the swirling upset I used to live in.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Productivity and Busyness don't make me a Good Person

For most of my adult life I worked twelve to sixteen hours a day.  Some of it was my job. The rest was upkeep on my home and yard, child care, and personal care.  Even when I was supposed to be having fun I was mentally worrying about whether I was doing it right and trying harder and harder to do it right.

I never stopped to think about why I was doing it.  I just grew up believing that constant effort and productivity were what "good" people do.  You know, "Idle hands are the devil's work" and stuff like that.  Just sitting around, or wandering around or whatever were the marks of a person with no ethics.

Well, I have absolutely nothing to show for all that effort.  I think almost all if that time and energy spent were a waste except for the effort I put in to being a parent.  The rest - blaah.

Now I'm only willing to put a certain amount of effort into keeping myself as healthy and socially acceptable as I can without overdoing it.  I like a clean and beautiful environment so I'm willing to put some effort into that.  But I've made it my business to find ways to simplify all of that into a meditative practice that wastes no movement or time. 

I've watched a bunch of Rachel Ray's "30 Minute Meals" and she wastes not a moment or a movement.  I've studied how to do home care in the same fashion.  I'm still working on getting personal care into a tiny amount of time, but I'll figure it out.  I'm not very attached to how I look so it's easier for me than it might be if I was trying to look fabulous - socially acceptable is all my goal consists of.  I don't want people to be disturbed by my appearance!

By eliminating as much as I can of the unnecessary, I've got time to meditate, pray, read, walk, exercise and write.  I also spend time with friends and family - a lot of time, really.  I also listen to music.  When I can I teach classes on journaling, recovery, basic finance, and "Zen" housekeeping because I believe it's my responsibility to pass on what I've learned.

Last year I got sick and in order to recover I trimmed back on movies and a lot of other entertainment stuff.  I haven't seen a movie in over a year, I haven't been to a concert in over a year.  I don't miss the movies but I do miss the concerts.  I still visit art galleries and museums and go for walks in gardens.  I've lost interest in traveling also. That's about it for my life.  And it's a beautiful, peaceful life that delights me.

Friday, April 03, 2015

The Bible and Misunderstandings

It worries me a lot when religious people quote the Bible as instructions for judging people.  Over the years I've heard verses quoted (usually from the Old Testament) that justified slavery and the inherent "less-than" status of African Americans (the Curse of Ham), justification of putting people to death who had sex in other ways than the mainstream, and other very scary things.

I was taught at the church I attended that the Old Testament was just that - old- and that the New Testament was what we should pay attention to.  That would pretty much get rid of the instructions not to eat pork, put people to death who had sex outside marriage, put people to death who were attracted to their own sex, and to treat people of different races as less than.  I don't want to believe in a God that doesn't love His/Her own creations. 

I think after observing all these years of my life, that we humans like to judge others so that we feel better about ourselves.  (I include myself in this, by the way.  I'm always working to lose this negative trait, though.) We know we're not at all perfect but we don't like to face that.  So we cut others down.  What a crappy way to live that is. 

Thursday, April 02, 2015

When Is Being Sensitive Good and When Is It Not?

I was and still am in some ways what I would call a sensitive person.  My sense of hearing, smell, touch and taste were all very sharp and I am grateful that it seems to me that my senses still are pretty sharp.  But I was also sensitive emotionally - if I was criticized I pretty much fell into despair.  This is one I still struggle with.

Over time I noticed that people in general are all sensitive in some ways and that this trait is not always helpful to our well-being.  I was troubled by all kinds of sounds because they were grating or too loud.  Certain kinds of odors felt hurtful and not just bad ones - those that I thought were too strong.  I especially had difficulty with hot weather.  I had trouble tolerating certain fabrics on my skin.  I spent a lot of time trying to arrange my environment so I would be physically comfortable.

I think I was lucky in that when I was in my late 30s I read a book that suggested using so much of my time and effort trying to arrange my environment to suit my sensitivities was pretty much a waste of time.  It's not actually possible to get everything around me to suit me.  Also, I think I was a terribly annoying person because I was always griping about something not being right.  I came in contact with other people who mirrored me and I saw how miserable they were if they couldn't get things right and how miserable they were making the people around them.

The book said that it was actually much more sensible to learn to accept rather than bitch, moan and try to control.  Of course, there are things that I need to do for my safety - sitting next to loud speakers wasn't good for my hearing, standing next to a fire wasn't just too hot - I also might get burned, and so on. 

But the book said I could just relax into whatever was irritating me and really increase my awareness of it and appreciate it.  One day I was standing on the corner downtown and a guy was using a jack hammer a few feet from me.  I immediately stiffened and mentally griped.  Then I remembered what I had learned and did my best to relax into the sound.  For the first time I noticed that sound was a vibration that I could feel in my bones and that it was actually a delightful experience in many ways.  I was convinced that acceptance was the answer.

Emotional sensitivity was another thing.  I have worked on this one for years.  I have learned that other people's opinions are just that - opinions rather than fact.  My husband used to say, "If I call you a whore, does that make you one?"  A little crude perhaps but definitely clear.  The answer is no.  It does not make me one.  I am an imperfect being with innate goodness who makes mistakes and cleans them up as I can.  No need to try to protect myself from other people's opinions.  I've noticed that my own opinions of others are usually (almost always) a reflection of my opinions of myself. 

Emotional sensitivity also helps me be sensitive to other people's emotions. That's a good thing.  However, taken too far, I become a slave to wanting to never hurt anyone's feelings - which is impossible no matter how hard I try.

I think all these sensitivities were given to us as tools to care for ourselves.  Our senses protect us from danger but we're not using them sensibly when we gripe about stuff in our environment that's not actually hurting us.  Our desire to be accepted and loved by others is healthy.  We are social creatures and need each other.  But being devastated by someone else's opinion is going way too far.  It's not in anyway helpful.

So, like a lot of other things, sensitivity is good when it's used in a way that is helpful

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