Stomach distress?

I’m noticing that many people right now are experiencing stomach distress.  They believe they have the flu or some virus.  I believe that their distress is unprocessed emotions related to the current political climate in the United States, which isn’t very “united” right now.

Many people were very surprised by the results of the election, and held out hopes that something unusual would happen to change it.  They waited until after the Electoral College voted to admit that their fears had been realized.  Now they are protesting everything that they are learning about.  People who were politically inactive before are now glued to whatever news they can get.

What you focus on expands.  What you think about, you are. If all you focus on is bad, that is all you will see.  Anger and fear leads to more of the same.

Life is all about choice.  You have a choice as to what you read or do or think, but first you must become aware.  You must become mindful of what is going on at the deepest level.

The stomach processes some of our most basic emotions – fear, anger, grief.  We feel things “at a gut level”.  We are “gutted” when something terrible happens.  Our stomach not just processes food, but feelings.  Our entire body is a sensory organ, and each unique organ receives and processes external stimuli in unique ways.  We accept that we see with our eyes and hear with our ears, but few people are yet able to understand that we have many other senses that are registered throughout the amazing gift of our corporeal forms.

When we are unable or unwilling to accept the reality of the messages that our bodies are sending us, we start to think that the messages ARE us.  We are able to understand that what we see through our eyes is simply a vision.  It is an observed phenomenon.  If we see a bird in flight, it does not mean that we are a bird.  Likewise, it is important to separate the sensations we experience through our other body parts from our selves, our being.  We do not have to be angry when we feel anger.  It is just a feeling, a sensation.

The purpose of being awakened isn’t to feel joyful all the time.  The purpose is to feel – everything – in a mindful and detached way.  You are not the feeling – you are feeling the feeling, just like you are seeing the birds fly above you.

It helps to be rooted in a faith that there is a guiding force that is over all things.  Having faith that the political leaders are not the true leaders is healthy and healing.

You must take care of your body in order to take care of your spirit.  There is nothing new here – diet and exercise count now more than ever.  Make healthy food choices.  Stress eating, eating “comfort food”, will bring your body and spirit down. Get regular exercise.  Just going for a short walk every day is excellent.  More is better.  Don’t overdo it, though, because that becomes a distraction.  It is important to be present.

Learn to be OK with sitting still in silence.  The need to constantly be busy is an addictive behavior the same as smoking cigarettes or drinking. Substance abuse isn’t just about drugs, but anything and everything. Doing anything mindlessly can be harmful to your body and spirit.

Having to check social media, read a book, or do chores can all be distractions.  Balance is what is necessary here. It is good to read a book – but if you feel anxiety if you are without one, then it is time to sit with that feeling and listen to it.  It is a sign that you feel a need to escape.  Use your feelings, regardless of what they are, to learn.  Do not run from “bad” feelings – they are trying to teach you that something is out of balance in your life.

Instead of protesting – of saying what you are against, spend your energy on building up.  What are you for?  What will bring healing to your community?  Who is hurting? Who is marginalized?  Go help them.  Go be a force for good.  Do what you can with what you have.  Your little efforts count.  Join with others to do more.  Don’t wait for the government to help – those times are over.  Be the change you wish to see.  Teach an immigrant child how to read and write.  Learn a foreign language.  Build a home for a homeless person. Teach a class on money management. Learn nonviolent conflict resolution.

Focus on what you can do, instead of what you can’t.  Spend more time on figuring out how you can do something instead of coming up with excuses for why you can’t.  Don’t blame others for your own choices.

Thoughts on haircovering 6-7-2015

There’s something amazing about covering my head. It forces me to look down. This thing that I do to show honor to God forces me to look at God’s creation and God’s creatures. It makes me bow my head in humility and at the same time point me towards that which I must serve in order to truly show honor to God.

I don’t know if that is the point of head wrapping. I don’t know if that is intentional, or just an amazing coincidence. It seems that because of the pressure that it has on my head and maybe how I am wrapping, I feel that if I lean my head back, the scarf will slowly over the course of the day inch further back and eventually need to be retied or it will fall off or look more like a beret that a head wrap. Even with a velvet headband I don’t feel that it is going to slip off, but I do feel that it forces my gaze downward.

Also, I wonder why do I find it important that I show a little hair so that people don’t think I have cancer? Or that I wear cross so people know that I’m Christian? When I cover my hair, people could think it’s for any reason. They could think it’s because I don’t want to style my hair that day. Perhaps even worse, they might think that I don’t want to wash it that day. They could think that I have converted to a different faith such Muslim for instance. For some reason they would never ever think that I had converted to Judaism. For them it would be a step backwards. But so many people don’t understand that there are sections of Christianity that also cover their hair as a sign of modesty and humility before God. This is especially true if they are married women.

This is the South after all, and there is very little variety here. I’m at a disadvantage because of it. I really stick out. But why is it so important to me that I explain to them what I’m not without having to explain to them with words? I want to allay fears or concerns, but why do I care what they think? I’m not doing this for them.

I don’t want to bother people. I don’t want to call attention to myself. This defeats the idea of being modest. It also makes people feel uncomfortable. But seeing so much of exposed skin on people makes me uncomfortable. I don’t want to see cleavage and butts while at work or the grocery store. That is for home or the pool. Western society has no taboo about having hair uncovered – everything is uncovered. I wear long skirts – the highest is two inches above my ankle – not two inches above my knees like many people. I wear short sleeve shirts, and show nothing of my chest. My clothing is not tight. The shape of my body is not for the world to see. I am not a product. I am not my body.

Some feminists think that women who cover their bodies are repressed. In actuality, if it is the choice of the woman to do this, it means that we are not objectified. We are not seen as objects. People have to look at us, as people, and not as packages.

Knowing people spend the majority of their days in mindless pursuits such as Facebook, playing video games, and watching movies and “reality TV” makes me uncomfortable. Knowing people are so mindless that they eat terribly, don’t exercise, and then are surprised when they get sick with chronic or terminal diseases makes me uncomfortable.

I don’t want to be like everybody else. They scare me. I want to be awake, and mindful. If wearing a headcovering helps me do this, then so be it. Maybe it will be just the sign to others that they need to be mindful about their lives and how they spend them.

Poem – What if AIDS is a WMD?

What if AIDS is
A weapon of mass destruction?
What if it is a created thing,
a biological weapon?
What if it was created
to destroy the world,
one person at a time?

What greater way to
us than to use one of our
basic impulses
– sex?

But it isn’t done to us.
We do it.
We have control,
It isn’t caused by a gas in the air,
poison in our food.
We know the risk and yet,
and yet.

How else are we destroying ourselves
though impulses
– food?
We are like animals.

Diabetes, heart attacks,
obesity that renders
a person
immobile, incapable,
in more ways than one,

with our habits, unthinking
we are killing ourselves,
never really alive
in the first place.
If all we do
is have sex
and eat
and nothing more,
we are no better than worms.

With our mindless habits,
we become
for them.

Meditation on mindlessness.

Every now and then I get stuck in a loop. I find myself doing something that I don’t want to do, and I’ve been doing it far longer than I should. It doesn’t make any sense. I’m an adult. I’m in charge of my life, right?

It sure doesn’t feel like it to me sometimes, and I suspect you might know what I’m talking about.

There are habits that I fall into that don’t do me any good anymore, if they really ever did to start with. Doing the same thing over and over feels safer than trying something new, even if the old thing is a dead end.

This is how I’ll end up eating a whole bag of potato chips in one sitting. This is how I’ll spend two hours scrolling through Facebook to see if anything is happening. This is how I smoked clove cigarettes and pot for ten years.

Mindlessness. It’s all mindlessness. It’s being on auto pilot. It is worse than death because at least with death I don’t have control over my actions. I’d like to think when I’m alive, I do.

The bad part is that when I get in these loops I usually know it. I’m aware of how badly I don’t want to be doing this thing but I’m still doing it anyway. Ten minutes later I’m still doing it. Ten minutes more and I’m still there.

It’s how I end up plodding through books that I don’t really enjoy. They aren’t for a class. They aren’t assigned. Most of the books I read I got for free or really cheap too, so it isn’t like I’m wasting money if I stop reading a book that is going nowhere.

Sometimes when I am stuck in a loop, I start to think like this and it helps me so I offer it to you:

Would Jesus be spending his time like this? What if he were here with me? Would I be doing what I am doing?

It works for food too – would Jesus be eating this? Is it healthy? Would I serve it to him? Wouldn’t I serve him good food, something healthy and tasty?

As for the state of my house, would I be embarrassed to have him over? Is it welcoming, or a mess? And what would we do? Would we sit around watching tv or checking updates on Facebook?

So, if I wouldn’t treat Jesus like that, why am I treating myself like that? I need to show myself the love that Jesus showed.

I sometimes get Scott to let me do something nice for him by talking him into the idea that it benefits me. I’m trying the same trick on myself. Instead of thinking about my own needs, I’m imagining what if Jesus were here. Would I be doing this?

Would I be treating my body this way? Would I be spending my time this way? Would I be talking to myself this way? Would I be living this way?

Now, understand that I wasn’t raised with a guilt and gloom image of Jesus. Jesus enjoys a glass of wine and playing board games. But he also values doing the real work too. It isn’t all fun and games either. There is a balance there.

What would Jesus do, indeed. I always hated those rubber bracelets. They seem so cheap, so trivial. I felt that the people who wore them didn’t have a grasp on the real Jesus anyway, because their Jesus was anti everything. The Jesus I know is about love.

I feel like Jesus wouldn’t waste his time but then I remember that he spent a lot of time alone, hanging out talking with God. So there was certainly some down time, but I can’t compare that to surfing the internet mindlessly or reading boring books or ignoring things that need to be done around the house or eating junk food.

I think what I’m trying to do is use Jesus as a reminder to be mindful. I’m not giving Jesus control. That isn’t what it is at all. I’m not trying to guilt trip myself into doing or not doing anything. I’m trying to come up with a trick that helps me get unstuck from a groove, a rut.

So far, when I remember to do it, it works.

About face – on social media addiction.

Facebook has been my addiction for several years. The more I use it, the less I actually do that is meaningful. I’m trying to resist the impulse to check it multiple times an hour.

I’m like my Mom, who lit up a cigarette every 20 minutes she was awake. Instead of flicking my Bic, I’m clicking a mouse. I probably won’t get cancer from checking Facebook this often, but I’m just as surely losing pieces of my life.

So, like with any other addiction, I need to study it and replace it. I need to study the power it has over me, and dig down to what “hole” I’m trying to fill with it.

Then I need to address that underlying issue and fix it or make peace with it.

Part of that is filling the “hole” with better things. For me, that means writing and drawing and beading. If it was warmer outside I’d probably add in walking. Maybe I’ll do more yoga.

But I feel it is critical to not substitute one addiction for another addiction. Even healthy things can be misused and abused. It isn’t about the thing but the reason behind the thing or the intent.

If we are not being mindful, we are being mindless.

Being mindful is what makes us different from animals.

Prayer makes me mindful. Being thankful makes me mindful. I’ll start there.

Also, part of it is being observant. I’m noticing that I want to check Facebook, and just observing that feeling but not yielding to it. That alone is a big deal. I’m trying to make it harder to do as a way to remind me of my intention. Instead of having my phone right next to me, I’ll have it in another room, and turned off. Instead of having the Facebook icon on my Kindle, I’ve removed it from the carousel so I have to go into the Apps page to access it.

These things slow me down so that I remember. It has to be a conscious, intentional act to check it. That is my goal – to have everything I do be conscious and intentional.

“Clean your plate!”

I’m having to retrain myself how to eat. I was taught to “clean my plate” so I often would end up overeating and being miserable. I would also eat fast to make sure I’d eat everything on my lunch break. I’d get the signal that my stomach was full way past the point that I should have stopped.

My trick has been to take whatever it is and cut it in half. I’ll half a frozen dinner after I cooked it and put it in the fridge for tomorrow’s lunch. Then I’ll eat slowly, chewing each bite well. I aim for 20 chews for each mouthful. I’ve heard with macrobiotics you should aim for 100, but that seems excessive. 20 chews is still far better than the grab and gulp mentality of the way I and many other people usually eat.

I try to get less at buffets. Just because it is all you can eat doesn’t mean it is all you should eat. Sure, you’ve paid for as much as you can eat. But there is a hidden cost. If you eat 4 plates of food, you are going to gain a lot of weight.

For some people who are trying to be mindful about their weight, buffets are impossible. They are too much temptation. I like going because there is a lot of variety and a lot of vegetables.

I try to eat slowly at buffets, but it is harder because I haven’t halved my food. When I notice that I’m looking at my plate and thinking that there is still a lot of food left that I have to finish, I take note that I’ve gotten too much and try to get less next time. I’ve also noticed that when I push back from my plate, I’m full. I find I do this unconsciously. I’m trying to notice this sign from my body as a clue it is time to quit.

I’ve heard it takes 20 minutes after you are full for your brain to realize that. In twenty minutes you can shovel a lot more in. Then you’ll feel terrible. But by cutting the food in half the and eating slowly you have a good chance of getting the signal in time. Also, it doesn’t matter if you “feel full” yet or not. You know you have just eaten a whole meal, so quit.

This all takes a lot of unlearning to do, because we have been taught badly.

Christian Sharia Law

I’m very concerned where things are going in this country. I’m very concerned that certain religious groups are trying to make everyone in the country follow their view of what is right by enacting or supporting laws that are in line with their morality code.

What if vegetarians were in charge? There would be laws that nobody could eat meat. Everyone would eat only vegetables, and no animals would be raised in farms for consumption. Sure, they might allow cows to be raised for their milk, and chickens to be raised for their eggs, because they aren’t vegans. They would point out that a meat-based diet is proven to be bad for you, so they are really doing you a favor by not allowing you to eat meat.

Or what if recovering alcoholics were in charge? There would be no alcohol for anyone to drink. Making alcohol would be illegal. The entire idea of having a glass of wine every day for your health would disappear. I wonder what would happen to the Catholics and Episcopalians. No Communion wine! They would argue that they have to have wine for religious reasons, and the recovering alcoholics would get the AA to hire attorneys to say that drinking any bit of alcohol leads to more drinking, so it can’t be allowed. Bars would cease to exist. Distilleries would cease to exist. And there would be no drunk-driving accidents, and there would be no underage drinking, because there would be no drinking at all. Well, no legal drinking, because we see how well Prohibition worked, but hopefully you get my point.

What if gluten-intolerant people, those with celiac disease, were in charge? Everything would be safe for them to eat. Gluten would be removed from the menu of all restaurants. No grocery store would be allowed to sell anything that had gluten in it. Wheat farmers would stop growing wheat. Bakers would have to relearn their craft.

All of these things would be done with the idea that it would be better if everybody followed a certain group’s rules. That group has certain rules that it has to, or has chosen to, live by. There are certain things they can’t have, and they realize that they can’t have them for their own good. And because they are in power, they want to make sure that everybody else can’t have those things either. You don’t need meat, or alcohol, or gluten. You can survive without them. But is it the right of another group to decide for you what you should eat or drink based on their belief system? Even if they think they are doing it for your own good?

I’m embarrassed and frightened that American Christian lawmakers and voters are using their belief system as a reason to deny others their rights. Even if they think their rights are wrong. Or rather, they are doing it because they think their rights are wrong.

How is this different from Sharia law? How is this different from a Muslim-lead country saying that every woman has to cover herself from head to toe in a huge swath of fabric and every man has to have a beard? They are doing it for their own good, right?

Let’s try another tack. I personally am against abortion. I think that abortion is murder, no matter how you want to define it. But, I do not feel I have the right to force my view on another person by enacting laws against abortion. I feel that every child should be a wanted child. I feel that nobody should have to be pregnant against their will, and nobody should have to raise a child they aren’t ready for, whether emotionally or financially. So even though I’m anti abortion personally, I’m pro-choice legally. What I think is a better way is to encourage better contraception options. Prevent unwanted pregnancies before they start. Have better sex-education. Empower young girls to say no and mean it if that is what they want. Empower them to have sex in a safe way if they want. Teach boys to be respectful of a woman’s choice and to not guilt trip or force her into having sex.

So for Christian lawmakers and voters to not allow consenting adults to get married just because they are of the same sex is illogical to me. Jesus said absolutely nothing about homosexuality. He said a lot showing love to each other, and a lot about not judging other people. There is nothing “un-Christian” about gay marriage if you really think about it. But the problem is that many Christian lawmakers and voters don’t want to think about it.

They don’t want to think at all. And that is the problem. They let their parents or their husbands or their ministers or their friends do the thinking. This isn’t what God wants. God gave us brains to use. God doesn’t want us to be mindless.

The more I thought about it, I realized that I had to be pro-gay-rights because I am Christian. It isn’t our right to tell other people how to live their lives. Jesus didn’t do that. So much for the “What Would Jesus Do?” armbands from a decade ago. What did Jesus do? He wasn’t a jerk, wandering around and telling everybody that they were a sinner. He was there for people when they came to him for healing. He taught them that God loves them and forgives them and wants them to do the same for everybody else. He submitted to his Father’s will, ultimately and completely, and wants us to do the same.

That’s it. There is nothing else.