Here are a few links that caught my attention recently:
- I’m currently trying to Fall in Love With My Work by taking this self-study course in order to figure out my professional shizz. So far so good! I’m seeing things a bit differently so that’s a promising sign.
- Letting Go of the Need for Control – Oh yes! Currently doing this work.
- As a wild dreamer, I appreciated this post. (Last night I dreamed that a half man/ half ram was visiting my mom. Feel free to leave your interpretation in the comments!)
- Welcome back old friend! The Buddhablogging space missed you.
- Chris Grosso’s new book ‘Everything Mind’ was just released. You should check it out!
- Pretty much how I feel when meditating right here in this one gif…
- I’m reading the latest book by Brené Brown – Rising Strong and it is uaaahhhharrghh so very good.
- The Instagram feed of Ian Willms is pure beauty and a wonderful tribute to his dad.
The process of unlearning has been front and center in my life these days. My mother is dying and had packaged up a box of some various mementos for me – photos, notes, baby shoes, children’s books and every single one of my report cards. I haven’t been able to look at the box until the past week after it has sat on my desk for several months.
I read through the report cards last night and it was like stepping into a time machine. In reading the perfect penmanship of many a teacher, a pattern emerged of their reports of a kid who was obsessed with reading and writing, needed to work on her math (year after year), who once failed to turn in a book report and who had on and off good, then horrible attendance during grade 4. This may have been the year I developed a nervous stomach and used to barf in class. I will never forget leaving a huge milky hotdoggy spurt pile on the linoleum after lunch and the shame I felt – even to this day. I think for some who remember me, that is likely all that remains in their mind of me. Milky hotdoggy barfy girl.
So we have the book smarts all documented in bright, cheery looking card stock format and gradings of percentages or letters listed row upon row. We have some cursory notes from the teachers wishing me happy holidays or telling me to pull up my socks and hunker down with my math lessons. Some offered to give me extra help – others praised my creativity knowing that I wouldn’t be likely to be a brain surgeon but more apt to write Buzzfeed articles about “The Top 10 Kitten Memes of Calico Kitties Dressed as Brain Surgeons.” My lot in life. I accept that.
We also have the personality insights they left in the comments boxes.
- Very focused on her work
- Works well with the other students
OK. So that was good right? Anyone would be delighted if their kid came home with a report card listing that praise.
This is where the unlearning is now taking place. As a kid, I was raised to be a perfectionist. To do NO wrong. To hold it all inside. Hold it together. Don’t do anything to upset anyone. Don’t do anything to get noticed. Stay calm. Stay chill. Even if you felt like crying, running away, laughing, speaking even… you were a child and children were meant to be “seen and not heard.”
Books were my BFF. A way for me to easily be seen and not heard. I read stories about mischievous kids who had all kinds of renegade adventures and were definitely seen and heard. Smash the state little Madeline. Fuck yeah Nancy Drew.
TV was my BFF. There were kids on the screen who were solving crimes, reporting the news, hanging out with cool dogs. They weren’t barfing up their lunch onto the floor.
Music was my BFF. It was like the poetry and stories I was finding escape in- but just with the added melodies hanging around in the background. It was like a mix of books and TV except the visuals weren’t on a TV set, but being created in my mind based on the lyrics.
Fast forward to “today’s modern Tanya.” You are reading a blog post by a writer/journalist/editor/creative with a Netflix addiction who seriously nerds out over music. That kid is still there. That part of me hasn’t changed. All my teachers likely saw that this was where I’d end up – except for that guidance counselor who told me I should go to beauty school, which was less of a helpful bit of guidance and more of a snide remark to the 16 year old who sat in front of her with a blue-tinted hair cut which could best be described as a “reverse mohawk.”
What has changed is the “be seen and not heard” inheritance that was genetically passed along my way. I’ve been trying hard these days to spot when I hold myself back from sharing – for fear of being seen and heard. I’ve kept myself out of the spotlight for fear of failure, for fear of being called out as lame. I’ve cut myself off of many awesome experiences out of fear. I am now active in unlearning. Active in schooling myself in a new way. Chasing away the messages of Do Better, You’re Fucking This All Up, Try Harder, Well Maybe Don’t Try Because You Will Fuck This All Up, Ah Why Bother It Will Only Suck Anyways.
Self compassion is a big part of the unlearning.
Times have been quite difficult lately. What has emerged from all of this pain, confusion and heartache is a new approach to how I view my life. I’m engaging in the grueling work of letting go. I’m rubbed raw from holding on to the rope, having clung to my hope that some things in life could have worked out differently. I’m massaging salve into my hands and looking to heal. I’m resting my voice from shouting obscenity after obscenity at myself. I’m drinking some of that woo-woo herbal tea with honey that many of you are fond of after I had labelled it as the ‘weaksauce’ of a lesser vehicle vs. the powerful Gatorade of the Mahayana. I really thought I was in the weightlifting rounds of the Mahayana and ready to save the world with my Boddhisattva superhero costume, not realizing that saying you love yourself first is more than saying it and convincing yourself that’s the case, but actually doing the work day after day after day.
Lifting oneself up is the greatest gift to oneself and others. Tapping into what we’ve been taught and questioning that is a great place to start. Seeing that we’re not fixed, our circumstances aren’t fixed – there is nothing that we can cling to. Resting with that – as terrifying as that can be. Learning that there’s always a different way of seeing. Despair – Hope. Pain – Healing. Attachment – Letting go. Not all that’s bad is good and not all that’s good is bad.
And my process of unlearning continues…
I can feel it.
I have discovered in the past little while that I respond to ASMR triggers of the auditory kind. As a kid I had this kind of reaction but never really knew what it was and it seems like it now has a name and has become a recognized thing.
I get shivers in my arms, head and sometimes chest when I’d hear certain sounds. Whispering. The sound of typing (Yes.. I’m currently typing. No I’m not feeling it) and… music.
Music has always been a highly charged medium for me. I was thinking about how punk rock saved my life as a teenager. It was like yelling, screamey-sounding poetry to me. My feelings were out there another person’s lyrics. With every fast-paced beat. Every hooky change of tempo. I felt it. It resonated. Maybe it evoked some kind of primal, cave-woman sensation. Me like loud yelly, burly tuneage.
*Beats on bosom*
My love affair with music went a bit weird when I had a panic attack at a show. The very thing that I loved so much was still the same. It was my state of mind that had changed. Under different circumstances, I’d be carefree and enjoying the loud, blaring sounds, the energy of the space and really just feeling it.
Instead. I went to the washroom, paced around a bit and splashed cold water on my face. Breathing. Trying to breathe after feeling like I wasn’t breathing. Feeling terrified. Moments later, I was in a cab and feeling sideswiped by a WTF feeling that for the first time something that gave me joy was really effing scary to me.
It’s funny how we can get off track and sometimes the very things we love, morph into irritants or cause for great anxiety. The music didn’t change, the venue hadn’t changed. My relationship to live music did for a short period of time. Spotify. No problem. Live show. Nope. No thank you.
I’m thankful that my passion for music is back. I’m moving more into wanting to play and start a band. Hey. Why not dive right in? Viewing music with an entirely new framework and seeing it in it’s full expanse is exciting. When we have the ability to see our fears for what they are and acknowledge how much they hold us back, it can inspire us to reassess the way we relate to them.
I feel music differently now. Back to the way I felt it before.
I haven’t been speaking about it very often given that I’ve been pretty heads-down working away on it, but Sumeru Press and I are ever so close to releasing the anthology of Canadian Buddhist women’s writing.
Do you know that feeling when the right message comes along at the right time?
Whenever I’ve gone through tough times, or been asked by a friend how I’ve coped with difficulties, my tried and true, go-to recommendation has been to read Pema Chödrön’s When Things Fall Apart. It has been a great comfort during many an upset – large or small. I pulled it out a few weeks ago after a friend who I had suggested it to spoke send me a thank you note for doing so. She expressed that my recommendation for her to read it helped comfort her during the extreme grief she encountered after her father’s passing. It was a sign for me to pick it up again as a support to help me through my current situation and work through the confusion, pain and suffering that I’ve been encountering.
I recently received a review copy of Michaela Haas’ latest book Bouncing Forward: Transforming Bad Breaks Into Breakthroughs. After reading the description, I thought “Oh heck yes. This is a book I NEED in my life. Right now! Let me at it.” The concept of transforming suffering into something good, something of value has been knocking around in my head and heart for a bit and the central themes of posttraumatic growth and developing resilience sounded absolutely, well, life affirming. As someone who has been in therapy to cope with some hard spots in life (death, depression, loss, anxiety, fear, suffering, the yips), this book was yet another message well received, loud and clear.
The latest proliferation of life coaches who are all blathering on about “manifesting the perfect life,” shooting hazy, pixel perfect images of smoothie bowls and speaking to the “10 Easy Steps to Creating 365 Days of Joy, Magic and Smiles” aren’t the tribe I’m looking for when it comes to helping me through suffering. Who knows better about suffering than someone has experienced it right? Someone who has looked it square in the eyes and not run from it. Well maybe they cowered from it a bit, or cursed it out for a while – but they decided to not let the pain overshadow or overtake them completely.
Michaela’s personal story of chronic illness mixed with heartache, blended with loss, shaken and stirred with well – our old friend all pervasive suffering was what spurred her on to write this book.
She was on a mission to find out why some people were able to make it through the hard times, while others crumbled. Her investigation was grounded in the concept of resilience and how people from all walks of life were able to “bounce forward” and listen to their experience of trauma in order to experience posttraumatic growth.
Michaela interviewed a diverse group of people who have all learned and grown from the pain they’ve encountered. Each had developed immense strength in the face of adversity and flipped the switch on the habitual ways that they experienced fear, trauma and pain. The book delves into the personal stories of these individuals, distills the wisdom from their way of transforming their pain into something meaningful and offers the reader a detailed look at how they too can apply this insight into their lives.
The stories of survival in the book are gripping and vivid. Some names are ones we’re all familiar with – Temple Grandin, Bernie Glassman and Maya Angelou. Others are names of everyday people who have taken extraordinary pain and channeled it into meaningful action such as creating organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, or have neutralized the suffering into joy and used it to fuel their artistic endeavors. From the jazz musician’s story of how he survived and grew from the atrocities of the Holocaust to the young pro surfer who lost the use of his lower body in a freak accident and was able to continue to work to create an organization that shares the love of surfing with everyone. The individuals noted in this book have all gone through incredible pain, survived and come out the other side improved, empathetic and aware of the unique gift that their suffering has offered them.
Each chapter offers an example of the lessons that can be gained from the absolute worst of life’s circumstances. Advice and information from leading experts in psychology and trauma are peppered throughout and help back up the subject matter to keep it from veering into the “too good to be true” zone. It’s not a “flighty, woo-woo, let’s all feel good self help book whatsoever.” It’s a “dig deep, here’s the shit, dig in and get real/find some perspective/look at things a different way/you got this” book. It’s a guide to how to face pain and grow from it.
It’s an empowering read that speaks to how while we may not have control over much, we have control over our minds. We can train in this “resilience mindset” aka “growth mindset” in order to survive and then thrive from what causes us pain. Something good has to come from it right?
Bouncing Forward: Transforming Bad Breaks Into Breakthroughs isn’t a book of ‘suffering porn’ and won’t leave you feeling like you’ve just steeped yourself in a big broth of traumatic stories. It’s uplifting and offers real world advice for recovery. The list of five exercises to cultivate courage in the face of adversity at the close of the book is essential reading, as are the recommendations highlighted throughout each of the chapters.
There’s a great amount of compassion and gentleness that’s apparent in this book. While the bitter pill of pain and suffering is present in reading about the personal setbacks and tragedies of those featured within its pages, the sweetness of discovering a life that has meaning makes the medicine go down easier.
With the author’s background being strongly rooted in Buddhism, you may be asking if this is a book solely for Buddhists. While there are some mentions to Dharma teachings, Michaela’s experiences in India and several quotes from some Buddhist notables, it’s not a book for this one group alone. If you have suffered, are suffering or are looking to build resilience against future suffering – well, this book is for you.
While reading Bouncing Forward, I was struck many times with remembrance of learnings or ‘ah ha moments’ from past therapy sessions. In some ways this book is a compendium of much of the work that I’ve been doing on my own journey – self-compassion, gentleness, empathy, letting go, self-reflection and a search for meaning and purpose. It’s all in there and so much more.
To have this book to rely on as a support during these difficult times has been an absolute blessing. I highly encourage you to pick it up for yourself, friends and family who are looking to cultivate a new way of relating to trauma and suffering. I only hope this post does it justice for how remarkable and helpful it has been to read this book as I work towards healing
Bouncing Forward: Transforming Bad Breaks Into Breakthroughs takes its place on the recommended list of books that I suggest to friends who are going through hardships and will be placed next to my well-worn copy of When Things Fall Apart. They are perfect compliments for one another. When Things Fall Apart you can always Bounce Forward. The choice is yours.
I am so sorry! I’m not anti-social. I’m idiotic!
Oh gosh. I’m just seeing now that I had comments turned completely off here on this blog.
I really do want to hear from you.
- Leave me a comment.
- Say “Hi” and bring me up to speed on how you’re doing.
- Tell me something about yourself if we’ve never spoken.
Yes. I know I told you that I had given up reading and reviewing books for a bit. After a few decent ones came my way, I decided to withdraw my ultimatum on book reviewing , but rather be more mindful with the amount of books I was signing myself up for taking on. Would be weird to burn out on reading and reviewing Buddhist books wouldn’t it. Entirely possible, but weird.
So here’s a little glimpse into the latest book from Susan Piver as I hop back in the reviewing saddle.
I’ve been following Susan Piver for some time given I “got my start” with Shambhala meditation and she’s a notable part of their community. She’s also a writer and teacher so I was fortunate to have attended one of her workshops a ways back. I’m drawn to her authentic style and willingness to talk about the shitty stuff like heartbreak and depression. Birds of a feather I guess!
Her latest book is a welcoming introduction to meditation titled Start Here Now: An Open Hearted Guide to the Path and Practice of Meditation. Yup. The title really does say it all. You won’t find any surprises in here folks. It’s a great book for those who are looking for information on how to develop a meditation practice. For others (including yours truly) who have a few hours under their meditation belts, I see this kind of book as a support for my own efforts to teach meditation. There are also nuggets of wisdom within that helped my own view towards practice and provided a new way of looking at, well something that I have been looking at for some time. There are a million ways to look at a blank wall in meditation, so I’m always up for reading a new take on an old subject!
The book covers quite a bit of ground – from how to start and continue a meditation practice, defining what meditation is – and isn’t, tips for integrating meditation in to daily life, obstacles and antidotes that may occur, the various styles of meditation and suggestions for where to go when you want to go beyond reading about meditation in a book.
It’s an actionable and jargon-free book that offers real-world advice for those who are interested in meditation. I appreciate Susan’s willingness to take on some of the myths and misconceptions that surround meditation as well as her ability to share her own personal experiences with struggle within her life – both on and off the cushion.
Given she’s a trained meditation teacher, this book and the corresponding videos come from someone in the know and who has been at it for years. Like a trusted friend, Susan helps cut the mystery and bullshit around what meditation is and isn’t. I particularly appreciated her chapter on depression and meditation, as it is sadly too rare that this topic is addressed publicly.
I highly recommend Start Here Now for anyone who has been toying with the idea of introducing meditation into their life and needs a clear and concise primer to give them the kick-start they need. It would make a great gift for that friend, lover, family member or colleague who would like to sit down and shut up. And hey, doesn’t the world need a few more badass folks willing to sit in silence with their minds?
I am a voracious consumer of podcasts. Zillions of podcasts are just waiting to tickle my earbuds on a daily basis. I use Downcast to manage them all as it’s a pretty full feature “podcatcher” (I guess that’s what those in the know are calling this kind of tool).
I listen to a whole bunch of stuff. From comedy shows to psychology lectures and of course, the obligatory Buddhist podcasts to stay sharp. There’s one podcast that has really stood out for me lately in this bottomless feed and that’s one called Anxious and Angry. Yeah. Doesn’t sound very Buddhist huh? Stay with me. It kind of is without even knowing it.
It’s a show by Ryan Young (front man of the majestic punk rock band Off With Their Heads) which is a mix of punk rock music, glimpses into his life both on and off the road, interviews with folks in the scene and a listener participation segment with people writing or calling in asking Ryan for advice. The running thread through this podcast is Ryan’s bare honesty in speaking to the emotions he feels given his life experiences.- past and present. Much like the raw, rugged and heartfelt lyrics he writes, this podcast is a sort of behind the scenes of his joy, anger, sadness, frustration – you know, all the subject matter that’s currently making boatloads of cash with a certain Pixar movie.
All the favorite Buddhist themes are wrapped up in this podcast- old age, sickness, death, separation, suffering, seeing the joy in small moments, helping out others, being authentic. Yup it’s all in here. This is where I see it as a Buddhist podcast hosted by a angry and anxious, yet possibly atheist or agnostic guy.
This podcast is essential because the punk rock scene I think is only starting to embrace its ‘feels.’ For so long it had that angry, nihilistic outlook associated with it with only a few outliers who were speaking truth to the heart of the scene. There are damaged and hurt people in every group and sometimes that is what brings us to the communities we become a part of. Homophobia, sexism and racism have been both embraced and shunned by the punk rock community. I do hope that for every skinhead there’s a sharp skin. For every meathead singing about fucking and killing bitches, there’s another on stage singing about their single mom working 3 jobs to keep food in their family’s bellies. For every jerkface asshat beating up on a trans woman, there’s someone out there seeing Laura Jane Grace for the first time and recognizing that they too need to be their authentic self – before it kills them.
Beyond being entertaining and featuring awesome music and guests, this podcast is helping people to break the stigma around talking about mental illness and doing so much to encourage people to get help. It’s helping listeners discover the suffering that others are facing and brings a sense of empathy to the punk scene. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not a miserable show. It’s smart and funny and goofy too!
You should check it out if all this sounds like your kind of thing. If not, well then NPR have a great selection of podcasts as well!
Side note: Ryan has been printing up some great tshirts and I just happened to score this one right here.