Feeling Centered: An Elusive Goal

The last few weeks, I really felt like I’d lost my center. That’s one reason, I think, that I was letting things other people did or said affect me more than usual. Deep down, I wasn’t coming from my customary perspective of acceptance of my own worth, dignity, and humanity. I’d lost sight of my hard-earned understanding that what connects me with my spiritual core is the realization that I’m a mix of things I’m good at and things I’m working on, and both of those naturally will fluctuate, especially when there are a lot of outside stressors.

Does any of that feel familiar to you? Are you finding it harder to treat yourself the way you want to treat others, and they way you’d like to be treated! Have you lost your Golden Rule? Aha! Time for some centering!

Everyone finds their center differently, though there are common techniques many of us use. For me, meditation has always helped. Just breathing and not letting the cares of the day intrude for a while each day certainly can’t hurt. Other people call their meditation prayer or contemplation. It all works.

Could be a goddess. Could be Virgin Mary. Could be one of us. She sure looks like she’s centered, though. (It’s a statue called The Genius of Water, in Cincinnati, OH, USA. Photo by @CrosleySpelmanPhotography via Twenty20)

Deep breathing is a real help, too. Long ago, I noticed that when I am feeling super stressed I start holding my breath! Eek! As soon as I figured that out, I began to take that as a sign I need to stop whatever I’m doing and start a series of deep breaths, the kinds you do in yoga class, or in guided meditations. I have been known to pull into a parking lot and breathe a while. This aids when dealing with road rage (in self or others), too!

Over the weekend, I got a lot of time to myself to read and re-read helpful books (I’m working through The Sacred Enneagram, which has a remarkably helpful spiritual slant that makes me want to go thank a bunch of priests and is helping me deal with some of my prejudices and biases against organized religions). I had a lot of time to meditate. And like petals unfolding and revealing the heart of a flower, my center re-emerged.

I searched for “center” and the exact image I needed showed up. Miracle! Photo by @katjakholm.68 via Twenty20

I feel like myself again (hello, Suna)! And now that I’m coming from a much better mental space, all sorts of things are easing up. I’ve been able to deal with people I’ve found difficult in the past with grace and kindness. I’ve been a better family member. My work is going better. Funny how that works, right?

There’s still a lot to be done. I messed a lot of things up during my little bout with depression and hopelessness. I didn’t treat myself or others the way I’d want to, but I can be kind to myself now, learn from those mistakes, and move forward.

We’re all on a journey, as I like to remind myself. There are ups, downs, and curves along the road. Worse, we never “get there” until our life ends. Ya just keep going.

I chose this image because there’s only room for one person on this path, and that helps me remember we are all on our OWN paths, and they don’t look the same. I also like the marker up ahead, which reminds me it’s okay to set some goals, and maybe you’ll get to them. Photo by  @trackin_scout via Twenty20

Failure and disappointment will show up. That reminds me: Chris read me a piece about failure this morning, which he said made him think of me. It talked about the opportunities that arise from “failing,” and was spot on. Once you fail, fall down, or regress, you get the opportunity to start again, maybe with some new knowledge or insight that will help you on your journey.

Insert platitude here! I’m full of them today. But I’m sincere. This is yesterday’s sunset, which looks much like the sunsets all week.

I’m wishing all of you peace and understanding, and encourage you to find the areas in your life where there IS hope, and insights into what your challenges can teach you on your own journey.

Screwing Up

It happens. Happened to me. I was trying to be a good friend, but didn’t use good judgment. Did it go unnoticed?

Nothing goes unnoticed today, and by the end of the day, numerous people had reported to my spouse that I had made a mistake. Small town living at its finest.

graffiti that says paranoia
Can I climb out? Photo by @gafutch via Twenty20

That kind of thing can make you feel paranoid! Or, in my case, a lot of the work I’ve been doing on my “stuff” can fall away, and I end up acting like teen Suna with all the negative self-talk bubbling up.

I’ll take that as an educational moment, and one that can provide helpful insight into how my inner workings work, and maybe how many of us work. We may work to change ingrained patterns and know what our triggers are, but every so often, we’ll fall back into that hole.

What’s important is to learn to quickly pick ourselves up, reflect on what we can do differently next time, and (most important) shake off that self criticism and crawl out of the hole more quickly each time it happens.

a girl looking down, beside a ladder.
She did it; so can I. Photo by @paigeinrealife via Twenty20.

I even DREAMED I was climbing a rickety ladder, trying to get out of a hole. Like I’ve said before, my dreams contain very un-subtle metaphors.

Hug yourselves, friends. Our imperfect selves are here to learn to love and forgive not only others, but ourselves.

Wondering

quote from Brene Brown

How do you forgive yourself? Through prayer, meditation, invoking a higher power, or reading? Searching the internet for quotes by your favorite healing author?

What are some useful things to tell yourself (asking for a friend, ha ha)?

Quick Enneagram Update

As I talked about recently, I have been looking into the Enneagram to see what insights it could give me into how I could function better as a person and interact with others.

Two of the types came close to describing me, 2 (helper) and 9 (peacemaker). I eventually decided I was a 9 after realizing how strongly my urge to keep peace around me had affected my life (not always positively).

I broke down and spent the twelve dollars to take the official test, the Riso-Hudson Enneagram Type Indicator (RHETI). That test identifies how your responses to a series of questions match each type. I found the results interesting:

Enneagram Type Score
Type 2, The Helper 28
Type 9, The Peacemaker 24
Type 4, The Individualist 18
Type 7, The Enthusiast 17
Type 5, The Investigator 14
Type 6, The Loyalist 13
Type 3, The Achiever 12
Type 1, The Reformer 10
Type 8, The Challenger 8

The two I’d self identified were the two highest, by far. The results commentary said: “Your primary Enneagram personality type is most likely the highest of these scores, and almost certainly among the highest two or three.”

I’m still going with 9, but with a lot of 2. I don’t know if the standard version “allows” being mixed with two types, but, there ya go, I gotta be me. The two types on either side of you are supposed to be your “wings” to draw from. Note that those were the two least identified with me (and 8 is my spouse’s type, oh my).

Reflecting on how Type 2 people tend to want to rescue others, form large groups of friends, and focus on helping, I do see that I have been that way, but more in the past. It may be that I am moving from Type 2 to Type 9 as I get older. A lot of the things Type 2 people do are just not me, while pretty much everything in Type 9 hits home with a bang.

Just knowing how I tend to react to things has helped me explain how I am to others, and has already made communication easier in my family. So, I’m grateful for that. If you want to take the test yourself, here’s the link.

Books

Anyway, I read a couple more of the most recent books on the Enneagram, so I may as well tell you what I thought of them.

The cover of The Honest Enneagram, by Sarajane Case.
Another blogger writes a book.

The Honest Enneagram, by Sarajane Case, is an introductory level book that uses “normal” language to help people understand how to apply knowledge of their type to their lives. It didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know, but you sure get the idea that Sarajane is a kind person who wants to help everyone be their best. I gave the book to Kathleen to look over and share with Chris, because it’s a nice intro. It’s also a really pretty book.

If you know your type, this is interesting for sure.

The other book I got was The Enneagram for Relationships: Transform Your Connections with Friends, Family, Colleagues, and in Love, by Ashton Whitmoyer-Ober. Ashton is another person who just oozes concern for people. I am getting a bit more new information out of this one, especially about others (like my son and spouse). It’s really helpful, because this book gives you ideas for how to let people you love know you care for them, and how to best communicate with them. That’s useful information. I got some good ideas for how to communicate with a lot of people I know, at work, as friends, and as family members. I will use this one as a reference for a long time, I’m sure.

Both these books are available on Kindle for not much money at all, so check them out if you’re interested. I have one more book to read, then I’ll move on, since I may have found a new spiritual path!

What’s been bringing YOU insight? Are you using this time of being close to home to look inside yourself like I have been doing?

Apache Love

Why am I writing about my horse relationship issues? Surely very few people who read my little blog are well-meaning but somewhat clueless horse owners like me. Well, the growth you achieve when working with horses (or other animals) spills over to all other parts of your life. I’ve become much more confident at trying new things, secure that mistakes will teach me important lessons, and like I’ve been saying all week, braver. (I’m still me, but I’m learning to love my little quirks and care less if the way I am isn’t how someone else wants me to be…that’s for later.)

On to yesterday. I almost didn’t go do work with Apache yesterday, because it is so damned hot, and I was feeling bad that I was bothering the neighbors. Then I told myself that spending time with my horse is one of the most important things I could be doing right now, so Mandi and I just waited until later in the day to take a walk.

Mandi is telling Apache to not be a dick. He’s not having any of it.

DAMN. After taking some photos of Mandi with Apache for some dating purpose or something, we headed off in a direction we’d never gone before. Now, bear in mind that prior to this, I’d never been able to take Apache in that direction farther than the big barn with the beef freezers in it. He has always gotten nervous, looked back at the other horses, and pranced around.

Mandi says, “Isn’t this the cutest little ass you’ve ever seen?” Note that she’s finally getting closer to shedding out.

Not today. He and I walked slowly and calmly down the driveway, with Fiona and Mandi following at a respectful distance (to be sure he wasn’t relying on Mandi, who was so busy on her phone that I’m sure she wasn’t sending him vibes). We walked, I occasionally let him eat some plants, we talked.

Standing on my tiptoes behind his giant belly.

I walked him to the big cattle tank/pond where he likes to eat the sedges, and he plopped his foot in the mud and munched away. We walked around the tank, and he didn’t even flinch when Fiona panicked due to not being able to see us and galloped to find us (a hilarious sight, I guarantee you). I never ONCE had to tighten the lead rope, and only once had to ask him to move over to the other side of the path (to avoid an electric fence).

When we got to the farthest I intended to walk, he looked longingly as if he wanted to keep going to the end of the driveway! Who IS this horse? We walked back, calmly. He was in no hurry to get to the other horses. We stopped to take some pictures. I dropped the lead rope and he just stood there, just as he’s been trained to do.

In other words, not only did he act like the “old” Apache, he acted BETTER. I’ve always wanted to be able to come out during the week and just walk around and hang out with him. I see now that I should have done what I did this week long ago (as Sara has repeatedly suggested and I resisted). It’s helped our relationship very much, and made both of us feel more confident. So, I say to Sara, “You were RIGHT!”

In this picture, we are hugging each other. Just resting in the shade and relaxing. It was really great. Photo by Mandi.

This weekend I’ll need to start riding again. I’ll stick to my plan of not using the bit again until his teeth are looked at (scheduled for the week after next). And next week I may try riding him alone, with Mandi, Sara, or Kathleen following along just in case I need them. The goal will be to feel safe to ride alone around the ranch at some point.

We’re on our way. Photo by Mandi.

Apache and I are on our way. Thanks for listening.

Toxic Negativity: Much Less Controversial

My post yesterday about toxic positivity led to a couple of really good discussions, both in person and in chat. I can’t tell you how great it feels to know that I can start conversations that lead to greater understanding and new insights. So, thanks to all of you who gave me input yesterday. One big point that came out is that choosing to see the good in your life is not the same as forcing yourself to be positive and ignoring everything else. I’m taking that to heart.

Negative Nellies (and Neds)

Nothing good will come of this.

As for the opposite of toxic positivity, I think we all have had experiences with people who seem resolutely focused on seeing the negative in everything that goes on. I doubt that there’s anyone out there trying to make the point that focusing on what’s wrong is a good strategy for a peaceful and fulfilling life (and obviously not for contentment!).

I know I’ve had people in my friend, church, and work circles that can take a neutral comment and find the bad in it, and who can stop a happy discussion dead in its tracks. You can see people leaving the break room when they come in, suddenly having to excuse themselves in conversations, and getting that deer in the headlights look during meetings. Trying to bring the conversation back around to something else always tends to be a challenge with these folks.

Of course, they have their good points. They can be intelligent, hard working, generous, and empathetic. They just can’t see the good in the world, for reasons only they know. That makes people avoid them and reinforces their negative viewpoint.

Can It Be Cured?

People are just who they are.

Not by us regular folks. We generally can’t fix people like this by pointing out how their behavior comes across; in fact, that reinforces negativity. Professional help can do wonders, and I’ve seen that, so there’s hope if people are willing to work on it.

What to do, then? I always try to make the negative ones feel heard and respected, which is important to me and how I’d want to be treated. After all, their feelings are theirs and they are legitimate, for them. I do try to gently suggest another perspective or move to another topic when possible.

It does make me want to flee.

It’s interesting, though, that toxically negative people also tend to be ones who doggedly hold on to their agenda and actively resist changing the subject or manage to turn any topic into their negative item of the day (a trait that really amazes me when I sit back and look at it dispassionately). I knew someone who could take a conversation about chocolate ice cream and turn it into the problems with their child. Amazing, really.

So yeah, negative people need support, friendship, and love. But, if you are someone who get affected by the moods of those around them or have empathic tendencies, you may just have to choose your own well being over the needs of the negative. I do that, when I can, and limit my interactions with negative-biased people I can’t avoid.

Realistic Thoughts

A great way to deal with the negative folks is a nice bath in rose milk, a fizzy facial, and red stuff in your hair. Okay, that’s what works for ME.

Like the extra-positive folks we talked about yesterday, people aren’t all on the extremes. There’s lots of middle ground. Many of us who have an automatic panic over-reaction to change or bad news just need a little time to process before looking at things more realistically. Guilty as charged. Talking things through works, once we calm down. And people who look a little too positively at things can benefit from being reminded to consider the possible consequences before jumping into things that look like a good idea on the surface.

I had to end on a bit of humor!

In the end, we can use our tendencies to help balance each other out if we’re patient and realize that folks just are wired differently or react to experiences in different ways. Perhaps the extremes won’t be able to modify their behavior, but most of us can listen and learn. Let’s be patient with each other and talk together about how our internal processes work differently, rather than putting down people who react differently. It might work!

Moments of Zen

This is one of the most interesting times in my life, at least as far as my mental state goes. Why so interesting? Oddly enough, it’s because I’m not in a tizzy about anything. It’s not because my life has suddenly turned out to be like I imagined adulthood would be as a child, where you go to work, come home and do hobbies, enjoy a meal with your loving spouse, and sleep soundly, knowing you have the money to pay all your bills. Nope, that’s not it.

Little things just make me happy these days, like my peace and trees corner (shh, they are not Christmas decorations).

Rather, as I’ve mentioned in other blog posts, it seems as if all the things I have been working on to become my best self have taken effect, at least for the most part. Like what, you ask?

First, I had to accept myself the way I am. I’m human, with some issues that led me to develop some habits and tendencies that might bug people (let’s see, over-reacting to perceived criticism, crying when confronted angrily, problems with being “yelled at” or picked on, sarcasm, coming across as “looking down” at people…whatever). It’s weird, once I convinced myself that it was okay to be who I am, so many of those behaviors lessened. I haven’t cried in AGES other than when totally appropriate (death of people and dogs I love, mainly).

Continue reading “Moments of Zen”