Wish List

A few weeks ago I decided to write a list of goals for myself. The purpose was two-fold. First, to identify the goals themselves, and second, to help keep me focused on what’s important. I started with five:

  1. I wish to be completely free from addiction
  2. I wish to know my own true nature
  3. I wish to write for a living
  4. I wish for abundance for myself and my family
  5. I wish to free all beings from their suffering

This list came fairly easily, but it is not without its conflicts. The first major conflict came from number three, “I wish to write for a living.” This is a goal I have had, in one form or another, for most of my life. There is still something vital in it. I love to write, and when I write well I can get completely lost in it. I am able to pull out parts of myself that I had no idea were there. it puts me in touch with a very deep part of myself.

But it has been so difficult to write lately. I started the blog as a way to put writing back at the center of my life, and partially it works, but partially it doesn’t. I often feel like I am just writing the same thing over and over: “Had a slip, feel miserable.” I don’t really want to write that anymore. I mean obviously I also want to stop having slips (see wish number one, “to be completely free from addiction”), but it is not particularly satisfying to just write about my honestly pretty boring pain all the time. It doesn’t help me and I can’t imagine it’s very helpful for anyone else either.

So I have gone back to trying to write stories. This is actually the main reason for my long absence from the blogosphere. I wrote one short and I think pretty good story, but I am finding it very difficult to fully engage with writing the way I used to. I just can’t get as deeply into it as I need to.

Partially, this has to do with work, and partially it has to do with having a kid, and partially with a general exhaustion. Also, this relates to wish number two (“I wish to know my own true nature”). There just isn’t a lot of time to meditate, and meditation is a crucial ingredient to the deep internal quiet I need in order to access those deep parts of myself.

I am willing to accept that writing may never be profitable, but wish number four, for “abundance for myself and my family” is a constant source of stress. I mean on one level we have abundance, we have enough to eat, we live in a beautiful place, we spend time together as a family, we own a kayak.

But at the same time we have no cushion, there’s hardly any money in the savings account, the credit cards are maxed out and our retirement plan hinges on a couple of houses in another state. If we sold them now they might bring in enough to pay off my student loan debt, but even that is questionable.

So there is always a sense that I have to do more, bring in something extra, but no matter what I do it seems like our situation doesn’t improve. We don’t have enough money to invest in anything, so I’m left looking at my skill set. Which consists primarily of writing and doing therapy.

If there is is a word to describe how I feel, I think it would be “depleted.”

Last week I added a couple more items to the list:

6. I wish for excellent health for myself and my family

7. Kayaking is important

I have been seeing an acupuncturist in order to work with the crushing back pain and also with the energy depletion. The special diet is helping as well. My hope (only hope?) is that if I can stop feeling so physically depleted this will help me to live the rest of my life in a less depleted way. I want abundance on all levels. Then I can start truly working on wish number five: “to free all beings from their suffering.”

 

 

 

 

 

Wish List

Stabilizing

June 9, 2016

Well, that threw me for a loop. Always does, or almost always. Nothing messes with my center of gravity like a visit from my mom.

Got thrown completely off the diet. I realized that the diet is actually a kind of front-line defense against the porn use. The diet is all about being resourced and not depleted, because it’s when I feel weak and depleted that I’m most likely to use. So again: No alcohol, coffee, sugar, dairy, or wheat. Very tight on the alcohol, coffee and sugar; a bit looser on the others.

Got to watch the bottom lines as well. I notice I get very resistant… if I tell myself that I can’t binge-read all the top twenty lists on Rotten Tomatoes, I tend to rebel against myself and do just that. So I have decided to take up a less damaging vice: I bought myself a mystery novel.

Anyway, just wanted to check in and let the world (and myself) know I’m not lost.

Stabilizing

Mom’s back

May 16, 2016

Jagged morning. Mom’s here. She’s staying in an Airbnb. Left her last night feeling pretty desolate, I think. I think it hurts her to stay separately from us. She feels abandoned. I think that’s kind of a core thing for my mom. I have sympathy, but I just don’t have space to deal. She attacks and defends, attacks and defends. It’s exhausting. I find myself most of the time just shutting down, staying in the conversation but with no investment. I don’t have the time or energy to do what I used to do, which is to allocate a big portion of my energy and attention to just being with my mom. Can’t do that with a kid and a demanding job and marriage I’m trying to keep on track. I can’t give her my full attention for hours on end and put my own emotional needs aside, because I already do that for my son and it’s also what I do for a living.

Mom’s back

God’s Love

May 2, 2016

I was lying in bed last night, and I started to think about the concept of God loving me. Right? It’s one thing to love God, but a whole order of magnitude larger to begin to accept that God loves me. To realize that all my spiritual practice, all my struggle and prayer and meditation and reading and contemplating is really just a way to realize that God loves me. Already. Completely. As I am. It’s that simple.

I’ve had people telling me this in different ways for years. It is actually an important part of the Buddhist tradition, although many Buddhists don’t talk about God, as such. There are Tibetan stories of sages meditating in caves for years, seeking enlightenment, only to realize that enlightenment has been seeking them. I was on a retreat with the spiritual teacher Adyashanti, and one of his students reported the experience of having the Universe bend back around and ask her: “…and who are YOU?” One of my own clients reported a similar experience. He said, “I spent so much of my life seeking God, but the amount of effort I put in was nothing compared to what I received from God.”

In a certain sense I think that Christians may have it a bit easier than Buddhists, in that many Christians seem to know intuitively that God loves them. It has been a much harder road for me. I remember the shock I had several years ago when I realized that the Universe is cognizant. It was like my reality turned inside out. Here I had thought I was this little ball of life in a vast sea of non-life, only to realize that I am just a tiny part of an infinite sea of Life.

When I practice, and pray, and take care of myself, love begins to shine through me. It shines through to my clients, to my family, to people on the street. There are times in my life when I just radiate love. I know this is Divine love. I don’t own it, I am just lucky enough to be the conduit through which it expresses itself.

But here’s the reversal I am trying to perceive, and it comes back to me lying in bed last night. I am starting to feel that all the good things that come to me are blessings. I am very accustomed to think that I am responsible for many of the good things in my life. You know: I’ve worked hard, I got myself into school, I have focused as much as possible on my spiritual practice. Effort leads to results.

I’m not sure that’s true, or at least not in a strictly linear sense. I’m beginning to think it’s more like the blessings are there all the time, pouring down upon me, and all the effort I make is just to open my eyes a tiny bit and see.

But it’s more than that. Somehow all the effort I am making is really God’s effort to reach me. God is moving towards me, not the other way around. He is calling me and has been my whole life. Every “positive” action I have performed has been an answer to that call, and every “negative” action a turning away. Not only does God already love me, I already know it, in that I can feel the effects of this turning towards/turning away. In fact, on some level I have lived my life according to that knowledge.

If only I weren’t so forgetful.

Comments?

 

God’s Love

Bottom Lines

April 27, 2016

 

Mike, the author of the fantastic porn addiction and recovery blog Hi my name is Mike writes about what he calls “bottom lines.” “A bottom line” he writes, “is a line you draw around behaviors and daily patterns to create a buffer zone between healthy living and living in the ‘danger zone’ where you might become triggered and ultimately slip or act out.”

This tool seems very useful to me, and I decided to compile a list of the behaviors that most often lead to a slip.

  • Allowing myself to do a Google image search when I’m bored.
  • Allowing myself to do ANY kind of Internet browsing when I’m bored.
  • Allowing myself to get on the computer for any reason when I’m alone and tired, angry, hungry, stressed out or lonely. Even if I have work to do.
  • Using the computer for entertainment, unless specifically sitting down to watch a movie.
  • Reading the news for entertainment.
  • Watching TV for any reason, especially (since I don’t have a TV at home) when I’m travelling alone.
  • Allowing myself to get to a place where I’m physically depleted, especially hungry, when I can be alone with a computer.
  • Allowing paperwork to pile up at work, so that I have too much to do (and avoid doing) at the end of the day.

In large part, I notice that what comes up for me again and again is wasting time. Almost everything I do on the computer, except for work or blogging or intentional entertainment (almost always with my wife), seems to fall into the category of wasting time. It is basically procrastination, and looking at porn is procrastination par excellence: it is not just an avoidance of work, but of life itself.

My bottom line list, then, is fairly simple:

  • Do not use the computer or other electronic media for entertainment.
  • Do not use the computer for any reason (even if I have work to do), when I am alone and tired, stressed out, angry, lonely, or bored.
  • Do not allow paperwork or other bureaucratic chores to build up. If something needs to be done, do it as soon as possible.
  • Do not allow myself to get to a place of depletion. Bring snacks to work and program in appropriate breaks.

I will probably have to add to this list, but I think it’s a good start. I’m actually pretty sure that if I follow these guidelines, I can avoid a real slip entirely.

Thank you, Mike!

Bottom Lines

Looking For a Heading

P1000824 copy

April 26, 2016

 

I’m not feeling nearly as energetic as I was during the first days of the diet. I’m still getting these moments of utter deflation, in which I also tend to feel hopeless and depressed. I suppose it could be because the most recent porn slip was less than two weeks ago. Two weeks is usually the point at which I start to feel like myself again.

Also, significantly, my mom is coming for a visit. She lives all the way across the country, so getting her out here is a bit of a hassle. She is also terrible with computers, so it usually falls to us to get her plane tickets. Even just writing about this makes me feel sluggish. This is something I definitely need to work with.

Last night I finally managed to arrange an airbnb apartment for her, which helps me to relax a little. I am in a constant struggle to have her be a part of our lives (especially important now that there is a kiddo), but also keep some space in the relationship. My mom is the kind of mother whose secret dream would probably be to have my wife and me move into her house on the East Coast with our children. She never remarried after my dad left, and instead has put 90% of her emotional eggs in my basket, something I have resented since before I was a teenager. I have actually spent most of my life trying to get as far away from her as possible, a strategy that just doesn’t work anymore, now that she is a grandmother and entering her early 70s. I want her to be a part of our son’s life, and I know that it is up to me to make sure that she is cared for as she continues to age.

One thing I definitely do not want to do is move back East. There is no work for my wife there, and it would be difficult for me to get licensed as a therapist. Also, I don’t have any friends there anymore, and I start to get depressed whenever I even think about going there for a trip, much less permanently.

We love living on the West Coast. We live in a beautiful city, near big water and mountains. We love to hike and kayak. We dream of raising our family with this outdoor lifestyle, retiring to a cabin near the ocean and spending our later years doing expedition kayaking.

But it’s expensive here. We have little in our bank accounts, and not much saved up for retirement. We have done some real estate investing in the past, but it is far too expensive for us to buy anything here, at least not in the city. We rent our apartment. We have discussed the possibility of buying something with my mom, (she would buy it, really, we would help to find it and perhaps do some work on it) but it would be a huge investment for her, and we don’t know for sure how permanent we are here. It’s expensive as it is for my mom to come out, making mortgage payments on a 300k apartment wouldn’t help. It feels more like stress than a great idea.

My wife and I lived in the Southwest for most of our marriage, and we still own a couple of houses and a couple of small apartments there. If we moved back, we could easily afford a bigger place for my mom. She could buy a medium sized house for the price of a tiny apartment here. Or she could move into one of our places. Or, after not too long, we would probably be able to afford another place and make sure it had a sizable casita for her in the back. It is just so much easier to live there.

My fear is that if we move back, all of our kayaking dreams will dry up. There’s no ocean in the desert. Maybe we could still work towards a future in which that would be possible, but it would be more difficult. I think I know my wife pretty well, and if we sell the kayak, it’s going to be a VERY long time before she’s going to be willing to try again.

For myself, I think the draw is increasingly back towards the Southwest. We will almost definitely stay here for at least the next two years, and that feels good to me. Also, my wife has her own reasons for wanting to stay, although I know she also dreams of the Southwest sometimes. I guess we’ll just have to see.

Looking For a Heading