Archives for November, 2012


Emotional Addiction

In my continued exploration of habitual anxiety - specifically, mine - I have also noticed a far more disturbing habit at work within me.

I have become addicted TO emotion itself.

I am also starting to suspect I am not alone in this.

Everything in our culture, in society itself, is set up to foster a continual seeking out of emotion - its highs, its lows, its sheer adrenaline rush of...
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Attacking Habitual Anxiety

I have been on the warpath of late against what I now call "habitual anxiety". I have also discovered that anxiety (in all of its forms) makes a formidable opponent. Habitual anxiety, by my very unscientific and totally unverifiable definition, is that inner state which occurs when a being - human or animal - becomes so accustomed to feeling anxious that any other feeling - including peace - actually feels unnatural or even unpleasant. I suppose that the psychological greats like B.F. Skinner or Ivan Pavlov might call this "conditioning". But since that term to me simply reminds me that I forgot to do my arm weights again this morning, I prefer habitual anxiety. Luckily, just recently I finally found something that seems to help. I have been doing meditations to attempt to train myself out of habitual anxiety and into inner peace. In these meditations, I affirm a set of statements, accompanied all the while by deep breathing and visualizations. I have become so good at reeling off these statements and their corresponding breaths and images that I could likely qualify for the American team for Olympic synchronized breathing-and-talking-and-visualizing, were there such a sport. Sadly, to date there is not. But just a few days ago, I made a breakthrough. And I am quite sure that if (when) the Olympic committee hears about this, they will move promptly to rectify the omission. In the meantime, I am so excited that I am practicing constantly. The breakthrough I made is this: I must "feel my words" in order to accomplish my goal.
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Retaining a Sense of Wonder

The older I get, the younger I feel. And I'm not talking about in my body. When I was young, I was always teased for being "a little adult". I was so serious! I didn't smile much, and I used big words. I'm not sure why I was like this - I just remember feeling very aware of the weight of the world beginning at a very young age. Perhaps I was depressed. Doctors today might be able to figure something like that out, but 35 years ago or so, pediatric medicine wasn't yet thinking along those lines. When I was almost 11, I developed anorexia, and then I became serious in earnest. It wasn't until I reached about age 35 that I started to really lighten up. I guess I just got tired of being such a serious person. One day I discovered how much I loved to laugh, and that it made me feel good when I laughed with others. Suddenly friends (also a commodity in precious short supply until around that time - no real mystery why) started telling me I was funny. I started to realize they might be right. Today, I see so clearly how I am like Benjamin Button on the inside.
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Shannon Cutts

The Battle of the Preferences

In my ongoing quest to pounce on and capture inner peace for my very own (a task which to date appears to require sleuthing skills that could qualify me to join the CIA) I have noticed a persistent, repetitive obstacle which it likes to hide behind. Preferences. Specifically, mine. I have noticed that I vastly prefer some things over others. For instance, vacation. When offered a choice between work and vacation, I prefer vacation. I prefer birds to dogs (or cats or any other creatures for that matter), green tea to black, Cape Cod to Houston. I prefer pants to jeans, blue to all other colors, and I would choose creative writing any day over the client-directed business articles I am frequently asked to write. So, I have preferences. Who doesn't? The problem with preferences is, they are seemingly incompatible with attaining contentment. How can I be content when I am also discontent - when I am looking forward to this, but dreading that, longing for the company of this person and ducking behind a building to avoid that person? I have concluded that I can't. Bummer.
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Learning Peace

I have learned something quite surprising over the last couple of years. It seems that inner peace - solitude, stillness, equipoise, contentment, serenity - is QUITE hard to maintain. At least for me personally. It is not hard to learn, it would seem - we all have those split-second glimpses (or I am assuming we all do) of a sudden blindingly clear sense of "all is well" finding the perfect comfy warm spot in the sun, we in that very instant become absolutely determined to never again move from THIS SPOT. Ever. And then we move. Why do we move? Why do I move - this is what I have been pondering of late. You see, I desperately want to not just fleetingly feel but steadfastly maintain inner equanimity. Peace feels so GOOD. It feels, well, peaceful...and quite unlike any other state I can expect to experience during any average day. But it would appear I am not programmed for peace. Rather, my mind, my expectation, my awareness is more biologically-set to continually seek out danger, change, instability, sudden doom....there is a part of me (and it is quite a bit larger and more powerful than I had realized until recently) that is still quite furry, walking on all fours, and out in the woods, constantly scanning the perimeter for hungry tigers. This part of me does not want to be lunch, and has become convinced that if it drops its guard for one. single. minute. it will be.
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Celebrity Mentors

Less Emotion

Recently I watched a surprisingly wonderful movie called "10 Questions for the Dalai Lama". I am not sure why it was so surprising to me that it was wonderful - perhaps because on that particularly night I was browsing my new neighborhood's vintage Blockbuster store (perhaps the only one left in my part of a city of six million residents!) for much lighter fare. Yet, in an odd and weirdly wonderful way, I found exactly what I was looking for. The Dalai Lama, just four when he was "discovered" and just 15 when he assumed the full weight of his responsibilities, could honestly be the Adam Sandler of Buddhism. He is just so funny! He smiles, he laughs, he hugs and chuckles and jokes his way through discussions on the most ponderous, serious, and heart wrenching of topics. This is not because of any lack of awareness of the gravity of his people's situation, nor the precarious state of all those under the threat of persecution today. It is because, in his many hours and days and years of deeply solitary meditations and studies, he has discovered that violence, hatred, and anger do. not. work. Of course, anyone who has ever endured the challenges of recovering from anything (like us, for instance) already knows that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and again while expecting different results. The Chinese government, and other world powers both established and, um, not so established, are still figuring this out. Or not, as the case may be. But this doesn't stop the Dalai Lama, who, throughout his 45-minute interview with independent filmmaker Rick Ray, repeatedly counsels, "less emotion, less emotion."
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The Limits of Family

It recently occurred to me that I have spent most of my 41 years to date expecting far too much from my family. I have also been willing to give far too little in return for what I was expecting them to be able to offer me. Family, I have discovered, is comprised of people. My people (much as I may wish to believe otherwise) are not programmed differently than other people - they are not more adept at reading my cues or lack thereof, more tolerant when I act out, or better endowed with the precise levels of patience or wisdom that my often erratic progress through life may require of them than the other people I see moving about around me. They also have their own challenges to face and deal with on any given day. My family members are not going to be able to just "keep it together" if I decide to have a bad day. Again. They may be having their own version of my bad day, and may - gasp - actually need MY support. Or maybe we just need to stay out of each others' way for awhile. The point is, my family has limits, just like strangers, just like acquaintances, and just like close friends.
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Animal Mentors

Learning How to Greet Stress When it Arrives

My bird, Pearl, is always freaking out about something.

Whether it is the sight of a butterfly flitting by outside, the sound of my large silver hairdryer, or the experience of watching Mommy round the corner and disappear from her line-of-sight view, the phrase I speak most frequently to my diminutive grey and white avian companion is a soothing, "Don't worry".

She never listens.

Freaking out is in a cockatiel's nature, as it turns...
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