Tag Archives: woo woo

Thoughts on Radical Acceptance

I’ve found myself writing about radical acceptance a lot lately. It’s always on my mind, one of the most fundamental beliefs I have, a huge component of my mood skills and my parenting philosophy — but I haven’t written much about it, because I find it hard. A poor explanation makes it sound like optimism on speed, or hippie passivity, or dressed up defeatism, when it is absolutely none of those things. I think, and hope, that between these two takes I give a decent introduction to this simple and profound concept.

(The first is from a Facebook conversation inspired by this video, the second an excerpt from the original draft of a rejection collection submission.)

Explaining Radical Acceptance, Take One:

I find radical acceptance to be one of the hardest things to explain to anyone else, but also one of the most profound tools of my own wellbeing.

It’s NOT about “looking on the bright side” or “staying positive” — it’s seeing exactly what is, even all the shit, and just… accepting the fact of its existence, and, yes, sometimes, seeing the beauty in the ugliness, and the teeny tiny sparks of light in the dark.

It’s not about defeat or avoiding change, either, but rather makes the changes we’re trying to implement SO much more effective, because we’re not wasting energy denying what is, or making it out to be something it’s not (like completely horrible, or so perfect it’s unimprovable).

It’s nothing more or less than observation without judgment, allowing for a deeper and truer and more awe-some observation than would otherwise be possible. Which is one of the most radical acts imaginable.

Explaining Radical Acceptance, Take Two:

Here is a universal truth you may or may not have heard yet: you have the right to feel however you feel.

It’s true.

However you feel right now is OK. Depressed and hopeless and like this is pointless? That’s OK. Pissed off and afraid and hating the way you feel all the time? That’s OK too. No, it’s not fun (it’s OK to not enjoy it), and you don’t have to stay this way (it’s OK to desire to change it), but you still have permission, still have the right, to feel it.

And — here’s where it can get scary, and I started crying the first time I sat through this lesson — you have the right to feel all the ways you don’t feel, too. You have the right to feel joy. You have the right to feel anger. You have the right to feel safe. You have the right to love yourself, college drop out, struggling student, just as you are.

You don’t have to. But you have permission to. People can try to take away your ability to, and undoubtedly at times they’ve succeeded, but no one can take away your inalienable right to feel whatever and however you do and might feel, even all the ugly scary dark things, even all the beautiful scary joyful things.

That’s Radical Acceptance 101. Here’s RA 102: Some of those things you feel aren’t the truth, especially the ones that whisper oh-so-loudly about yourself when your moods are disordered. It’s OK to feel them — but don’t confuse that with believing them. You are neither the greatest thinker since da Vinci nor a useless collection of carbon good only for compost, though (if you’re like me), you’ve found yourself convinced of each in turn, sometimes in the span of minutes. Yes, dissociation is generally best avoided, but a certain moderate distance between the things our crazy tries to convince us of and the core of our self can be quite beneficial. Be fully present in this moment, but allow a certain detachment between your feelings and your knowledge.

Accept everything. Believe less.

What are your thoughts on radical acceptance?

The arts of wordless mindfulness and mindful words

Between pregnancy canceling one set of plans and a miscalculation of the number of elective credits remaining needed to graduate, I signed up at the last minute to take an especially woo class1 this past weekend, one I had never intended to take at all.

Part of what we do in massage (both giving and receiving), and one of the reasons it is so beneficial, is to have a time when the mind is not the focus of the self. It is the body that is the focus — my hands and arms and how I stand and move and dance to touch the body before me when I give, my skin and muscles and fat and blood and flesh and fascia and the wholeness of me, my pain and pleasure and the simple feeling-ness of being touched with love when I am receiving. My mind still babbles — of course it does — but I breathe, and let it go, and return to my body and the work I am doing2.

Reiki is that aspect of massage distilled. Rather than the body being the focus as in massage (or the mind as it is in most of our lives), now it is, whatever this means to you, spirit3. Most of the 18 hours of class was spent in the stillness of motionlessness as well as the silence of voicelessness — I cannot speak to anyone else’s experience, but mine was hardly silent otherwise. The brain, so skilled at formulating thoughts, continues its work regardless of our intent or desire, and so sitting in “silence” is anything but. Grocery lists, to-do items, old memories, projected worries — these I can let go of. These I am happy to send on their merry way, to let slip down the stream as unneeded creations of a mind only doing it job, not knowing when its production is unnecessary. But what comes to me in that stillness and silence that I wish to cling to, wish to grab hold of and jump up and run for pen and paper and the scritching sound of my hand moving one against the other, is the words. Post ideas fully formed, phrases finally perfectly turned, eloquence and persuasiveness and emotions given voice. How do I let go of these, when I know in a few hours — at most, a few days — I will be sitting here yet again begging for them to come?

There’s a writerly saying that the first 500, 750, 1000 words of the day are crap, but you have to write them, write through them and past them, in order to get to the good stuff. Some nights I feel like these are my 1000 words, and if I could just stay up longer, could sleep in tomorrow, could avoid insanity and instability on an irregular sleep schedule; if I could do this during work hours, could get out the first 1000 words when my part of the planet is facing the sun, could sit and write revolution instead of agitate in spurts of 140 characters or fewer in the few minutes’ attention that is all my child will allow to deviate from him: then I could get to those gems that pester at my brain, that beg to be heard and recorded after the 1000 are tossed up on the blog with mutters of “good enough”, which are not becalmed by the couple times a week I am able to sit here, laptop earning its name, but are instead bestirred by them — only to fade or flee when I, exhausted, say no, stop now, I have to sleep, I have no time for you: come back next week, next month, next life.

They never do.

So when they come in the silence and the stillness, in the midst of supposedly-good-for-me meditation — I am supposed to let them go? (The pain of doing so was one of the many reasons I found myself in tears more than once this weekend.) Perhaps a Buddha or a Hallmark card would say they are butterflies and are crushed with the clinging, or that if they love me then they will return, but I, with a few stolen hours a day a few fought-for times a week and but a few months until even that, perhaps, is impossible, cannot convince myself I have the time for such patience, for such woo and trust and surrender.

Likely the prudent path4 would be to take the time to meditate before writing — instead of poking around Twitter, say. And perhaps, one day, I will do that: after all, tonight I showered before sitting down5, so here I am at only 10pm with my nearly-1000 words. Perhaps one day I’ll be that disciplined and evolved and mature. Perhaps one day I won’t be so surrounded by kids and chaos and an overflow of needs unmet that I’ll have the time and the space and the ability to sit and be before I sit and attempt to do this work.

Or perhaps one day I’ll realize that I cannot afford to waste my time struggling to create through all that stuff when I could, instead, take a few minutes first to let it go, set it aside so the words and I don’t have to fight to find each other.

Perhaps one day.

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  1. Reiki, which was simultaneously less and more woo than I’d expected. Keep your eye-rolling to yourself, please.
  2. For receiving massage is its own sort of work — not work as in labor, but as in the work of being alive and present, the beautiful work of the breath and of being.
  3. A perhaps ridiculously-simplified statement of my beliefs is that mind and spirit are not separate from but arise from — are functions of — the body. I am, still, a theist, but an independent “soul” is unnecessary to my experience of the spiritual or the divine.
  4. 10 year old philosophy of ethics paper on Aristotle for the win. Thanks, Professor Marya.
  5. While my kid screamed he didn’t want to go to bed and he did want to stay up and shower with me, and while my mind flooded with variations on “please come, words, please, for me, please come, please” so loudly and rapidly nothing else — except my child’s yells — could squeeze its way in. So it wasn’t quite the peaceful and productive experience I might have hoped for.

Quick hit on parenting, play, and power

Pregnant + school + sick = series of short posts. Drop me a line if there’s a topic you want covered.

All of us are at various stages of sick. I’m on the tail end, The Man is on the just-after-the-worst day, and the Boychick has just spent nearly four hours completely stationary in my or his dad’s lap with the first-stage fever.

But now he’s done sitting.

Having declared no more Doctor Who and somehow survived the following ten minute wobbler, we’ve moved on. So, because this is the kind of day it is when we’re all sick and low on coping skills anyway, the Boychick has gotten up and is hitting — bopping, really, but he’s calling it hitting, and it’s got to be annoying either way — the back of his dad’s legs, laughing every time. The Man is standing with his back to the wall to avoid the not-that-tiny fists, and they’re both getting more and more frustrated.

Me, trying to figure out how we’re going to get out of this without yelling: “Hey kid, are you wanting connection? Do you want a hug?”

The Boychick, laughing: “No, I want to hit him!”

Me, and it feels like an epiphany: “Do you want to play?”

The Boychick: “Yes!”

The Man, exhausted: “Do you want to play reading books?”

The Boychick, offended at the obvious parental attempt to get out of real play: “No!”

The Man: “Do you want to roll a ball?”

The Boychick: “I want to play catch!”

The Man: “Alright, go get a soft ball, we’ll play catch.”

And so he does, and so they are. No one’s stressed, no one’s yelling, no one’s frustrated from unmet needs, and parent and child are enjoying each other’s company.

Parenting doesn’t have to be a power struggle.

Pregnancy Massage I, take 2: in which I beg for woo and e-support

If things’ve seemed quiet around here, it’s for a good reason: things have been very not-quiet in my life. Nothing much more than usual: started the term with a two-massages-a-week class, lost preschool for the child1, met a stranger and asked her to put her hand in my cunt2, and, today, started the three-day intensive for Pregnancy Massage I. Again.

It’s been six months since my back went kablooey3, and I’ve spent hundreds of hours and hundreds of dollars working on getting better, getting well, getting strong, and I don’t know if it’s enough. I don’t know if I can do this course, and I don’t know if I can have the career I’ve spent the last two-plus years working toward if I can’t finish it.

There’s a lot I’m doing differently this time4, and I’m not in the same place I was then, but I am terrified. And I’m doing all the woo acceptance I can, acknowledging the fear and letting it go5, staying in just this moment, grounding myself and feeling and loving my body as it is — but the fear is still there.

So this is me accessing all the resources at my disposal, and asking my community for support.

Tell me it will be alright. Tell me I will get through the weekend. Tell me I’ll still be a massage therapist even if I don’t. Tell me I’ll still be worthwhile human being even if I don’t get my license. Don’t tell me things will happen as they ought, but that I have the ability to make things work out whatever happens. Whip out as much woo and as many cyber hugs as you got, and lay it all on me.

And soon6, I’ll get back to my usual, less needy, more pedantic, kyriarchy-kicking ways.

Whether or not my spine stays whole.

*******

  1. The whole school is on hiatus for the health of the owner, and yes that is about as fun for everyone involved as you might imagine, not least her.
  2. Which I will write about soon, under the title “Adventures in Holistic Pelvic Care, Or, Yes You May Put Your Hand Up My Splink”.
  3. That’s a technical term.
  4. I’m not spending any time on the table, I’m not trying to force myself to sit on the floor with everyone else, I’m taking an extended lunch break tomorrow for a please-stop-my-back-from-breaking chiropractic tune-up, and I’m accepting all the help I can get with setting up the tables and moving equipment around my own body mechanics. And I still don’t know if it will be enough.
  5. I keep inviting the fear to leave, but it’s hanging around like a house guest with poor boundaries and worse hygiene, eating my food, monopolizing the remote, and generally making a mess of the place. Somewhere inside me there’s a zen master drinking tea calmly, but the rest of us are running around with bleach and brooms — cleaning up after it, or trying to chase it out, depending, and we kind of hate the lazy tea-drinker.
  6. For a certain value of “soon” approximately equaling “find an acceptable replacement for the practically perfect playschool which is now closed”.

Magnificently Simmering: the blog I would wish I were writing if I were a foodie and which you should be reading regardless

I write a lot about bodies — mine, others’, the experience of existing as an embodied being (because we all are). I still haven’t quite managed to articulate what it is about framing my experience as body-centered that is so compelling, so necessary to me, but it is true nonetheless. When I finally manage the blog overhaul I’ve been dreaming of for the past few months, and simplify the categories to three main topics, “Body” will still be one of them. To tell the story of my body, to really be in it, and to care for it are some of my highest goals.

Thus when a dear friend, whose life has near-frightening levels of parallel with mine (but with more getting published and less knitting), started the blog Magnificently Simmering, with the tagline An American Anglophile’s musings on mindfulness, sensuality, and the cookery of Nigella Lawson, I knew I was going to fall, and fall hard and fast, despite being far too lazy to be a foodie of even wannabe-Nigella caliber. And fall I am, for all the blog is only a few days old and a few posts long.

Here’s a sampling of why:

At first, when I started a year ago, I could only [practice mindfulness] while cooking. Even when the monkey brain was in full-on Speed Racer mode, something about setting out a cutting board and some vegetables, or turning on the tap to rinse out a stockpot, would immediately signal to it, Shut the funk up, we’re pretending to be Nigella, now! And I would chop, and do my washing-up, and concentrate on those tasks with such excruciating care, that eventually I could kinda, sorta, by my standards, think of blessed nothing other than ginger, and carrots, and dish soap.

Why Nigella? And we get the sensuality bit (oh, and how!), but what’s with the mindfulness business? Aren’t you just an ersatz Julie Powell, with more Zen and fewer f-bombs?

After a freak 85-degree day in which I endured three-plus hours of un-air-conditioned public transit, ran across a highway in a slim skirt, and bit my nails to shreds at the pharmacy waiting to find out whether my new wonderdrug prescription was going to cost $200, let’s just say, Gentle Reader, that the only mindfulness I could summon was an awareness of what flavor of ice cream I wanted my minions to spoon-feed me with one hand, while fanning me with palm fronds with the other.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

If this happens to you, do not, as I did, immediately grab a spoon and commence forcibly scraping. Simply view this as an opportune moment to practice radical acceptance and distress tolerance skills, and pour your mixture over your croissant bits, before stepping away. Nigella, after all, says we must let this concoction “steep” for 10 minutes.

Once you have deep-breathed and mourned the caramel for the requisite amount of time, return to your steeping slop o’goodness, and place it tenderly (for, it, too, must be mourning the loss of its caramelized potential, and wondering whether it’s worthy enough for Nigella to crawl into bed with it) in the oven.

Caramel Croissant Pudding

For foodies, for those of us struggling to be present in our lives and to live in and love our bodies, and for those with an unbecoming penchant for watching dreamy sensual women lick caramel off long-handled spoons, (and surely most everyone, certainly among my readership, is covered by at least one of those categories), this will be a blog to watch.

Just be sure to keep a drool rag handy.

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