BORN TO BUZZ: Create Your Own Reality

I believe we chose our own reality.

I’ve seen that process in action—two people interact, and both have their own very clear ideas about what actually took place.The same event happens to two different people–one views it as a blessing, the other as a blight.

But saying we choose our reality sounds so very lightweight. There’s no getting around cold hard facts, right? Reality is reality—if your car is going off a cliff, no amount of wishful thinking is going to keep you from eventually hitting the ground.

Well, I guess there is reality, and then there’s reality. So much of what holds us back in life, and in our art, is NOT about cold hard fact, nor is it as concrete as driving off a cliff.

Most of our obstacles are tied up with perceptions and misperceptions, based in fear, in indecision, or results from unclear goals and unfocused efforts.

And all of THESE conditions are, indeed, things we can choose how we think about them.

I wrote recently about actually experiencing a thought burp up in the middle of the night—and watching my mind literally pounce on it and begin to worry a solution out of it.

Til I realized, “This is not a problem I have to solve. It’s just a thought!”

And I’ve been reading more and more about “mindfulness”, the process of observing and naming your thoughts without the compulsion to act on them or even judge them. “Oh, look, there’s that insecure feeling again….” “Wow, I feel like smacking my cat. I must be having an angry thought about her ralphing on the couch.”

But why do I…we…have to go through these processes to achieve inner peace? Why is my brain always buzzing? What’s wrong with me and my brain, anyway?

I’ve been blaming it on menopause and looking for a cessation any day now. But more and more women are telling me, “Oh, it’s not that simple….”, sending me into new panic. You mean it’s not going to just go away on its own?? Horrors!!!

But yesterday I found hope.

I read the most remarkable book excerpt in the July 2007 issue of OPRAH magazine.It’s from Ruth King’s book, HEALING RAGE: Women Making Inner Peace Possible”. You can read more about Ms. King’s book here.

The excerpt reads:

“The mind’s job is to be busy with thought—24/7. The problem is that we often confuse the activities of the mind with the whole truth…A single wave of emotion can feel like the vast ocean at any given time, yet it is still only a wave, to be followed by another…Emotions are fed by thoughts that believe they are the only reality…We can be informed, even entertained by [them] without the urgency to believe them or act on them.”

I have read and reread that excerpt.

“The mind’s job is to be busy with thought—24/7.”

Our consciousness constantly creates thought because that is its function. There’s nothing wrong, that’s just what it’s supposed to do. That’s why it’s so hard to “empty your mind” when you meditate, so hard not to think of brass monkeys when told not to.

We have brain buzz because our brains are born to buzz.

And notice the next big sentence:

“Emotions are fed by thoughts that believe they are the only reality…”

If this is true, then here is the linchpin behind the whole “choose your own reality” philosophy.

If how we feel is based on thoughts, and any given thought can be given credibility if we let it, then we can CHOOSE which thoughts we give credence to, and which ones we won’t.

I don’t think it will be easy. I’m sure it takes practice, practice, practice.

But if such peace-of-mind is really so within my grasp, I’m willing to put a little time into making that happen.

I feel like this marshaling of my thoughts and processes is going to be so good for my art, and for my life.

IT’S JUST LIFE

My husband and I had a good talk yesterday. We’re both feeling a little fragile, a little down, a little overwhelmed right now.

We talked about the same stuff we always talk about when we feel this way. Whether what we’re doing is ever going to amount to anything. Whether it’s worth doing, worth all the effort and sacrifices we’ve made. Whether we’ve made the right choices. Or if there are harder choices yet to be made.

We don’t have unbridled youth and enthusiasm in front of us anymore. We’ve long passed even the most generous outer boundary of “middle age”.

It’s a time for thinking carefully about what we want the next 20 years to look like, and what we have to do to make that happen. Is this the right work for us? If it is, why is it so hard?

Is it time to hunker down and dig in? Or is it time to move on to the next thing? When do you know when it’s time to simply try something else?<

Do we stay in this small New England town, where we’ve built a great family life and made many friends? Or do we look for another region of the country for this next chapter in our lives? It’s got to have lots of sunshine but not too hot. It’s got to have community access to a great lap pool. It’s got to have access to horses I can ride. NO BLACK FLIES!

Do we sell our beautiful but increasingly high-maintenance 1850’s home? Or put more sweat equity into it, both for personal enjoyment and to keep costs down? I want to state for the record right here that I personally get very little enjoyment from engaging in sweat equity. One of my favorite movie lines of all times is from a trailer from a movie starring Dan Aykroyd and Rosie O’Donnell as special agents undercover, infiltrating some sort of sex club. A studly club employee, wearing a leather harness, says to Rosie in a sultry voice, “How can I fulfill your wildest fantasy?” And Rosie says, “Go paint my house.”

How do we take advantage of these last few years with our youngest child at home?< Is this the time to travel more? Or should we stick close to home?

Money is tighter than ever, not what we expected to happen at this age.< Should we cut back on spending as much as possible? Or throw fiscal caution to the wind and live a little?

There’s no way to answer these questions, of course. All we can do is keep our lines of communication open. And keep our options open. And be open to opportunity when it crosses our path.

Much as we yearn for a more clear road map right now, we know there’s no such thing. Oh, people can plan and prepare. But life has a way of throwing all kinds of twists and surprises at you, some good and some bad.

I know, too, that some of our choices have been excellent ones. As I drifted off to sleep last night, I realized one of my best choices ever was to be with someone who wants to be the person I can talk to about this stuff.

There are many other good choices that are just as clear to me. Even the bad choices have been….instructional.

In the end, it’s not about perfect choices.

It’s being able to learn and grow from everything that happens. To stay hopeful. To keep courage. To try new things, and make new choices. And to muddle on as best we can.

Because as life unfolds, it affects people one of two ways.

They can get thicker.

Or they can get deeper and richer.

I already know which kind of person I want to be.

CLIMBING THE WALLS

Climbing walls teaches me about taking risks and having fun doing it.

A few weeks ago, on a whim, I visited the wall climbing class at our local Y.

I found a small group of avid, enthusiastic climbers. Before long, I found myself strapped into a climbing harness and scrambling up a wall.

It’s exhilarating. Exciting. Exhausting!! After two days of climbing, my hands and forearms feel like jello. No, scratch that. Jello bounces. Let’s make that limp, cooked spaghetti.

Here’s my big breakthrough moment while climbing the walls:

It’s okay to fall.

I obsessed at first about picking “safe” holds, making sure my feet were firmly planted before I made my next move. When I couldn’t find the next spot to move to, I’d panic. I worried I wasn’t making good decisions.

Was I doing it right??

I was terrified to fall.

But my coach finally convinced me it’s okay to fall. “Everyone falls!” she exclaimed. (She’s 65, by the way, and would look better in a bikini than most 20-year-olds I know.)

In fact, you SHOULD fall. When you get to a tricky bit, try a little jump up. Try a hold you’re not sure of. Reach. Leap. Go for it.

Because—and this is important:

You’ve got nothing to lose, and everything to gain.

Because the point of climbing, oddly enough, is NOT to avoid falling. It’s simply to get to the top–any way you can.

You can dash up, you can scramble, you can go slow and stop and rest. You can go up sideways, you can stretch off to one side. You can even just jam your foot against the wall, and push off against that. If you’re stuck, you can simply decide to take a little leap of faith. Take that big step up and lunge for that handhold you’re sure is just out of reach….

Because even if you peel away from the wall, you are perfectly safe.

You’re in your harness, your spotter has a rope on you, and you’re not going anywhere until you say you want to come down. (Which is pretty darn fun, too!)

As I went up the wall for the third day today, I actually felt my brain unlocking.

I thought of that saying: “What would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?”

Because when it comes to taking chances with our climbs, with our ambition, with our art, failing does not kill you.

Oh, your pride may be ruffled a little. And I’m sure there are some nasty souls somewhere who will take pleasure in your little downfall.

But I would rather focus on those enthusiastic voices below, the ones who are taking real joy in your efforts. The ones who really want to see you make it, all the way to the top.

And the rewards are so great.

“Beautiful climb! Good job! You made it!”