Saturday, November 5, 2022

Northshore Notes: Namaste, asshole

 

     We haven't completely come out of our COVID shells yet, have we? I thought we had. But lately suspect we've merely accustomed ourselves to a new, more isolated way of living. Or as Bruce Springsteen sang, "Sooner or later, it just becomes your life." A topic our Northshore bureau chief, Caren Jeskey, explores in today's post:
 
By Caren Jeskey

    “The ego is a terrible master but it’s an excellent servant.” 
     During screen time with a friend in California the other day, he dropped this bomb. Not an original thought, but that’s okay. He thought it important to say.
     COVID isolation allowed those of us who lived alone and far away from family to enjoy a solitary— selfish, even— life. I loved it. I found out I’m not an extrovert.* There were many benefits to 18 months alone in Texas. I was able to hear myself think, and feel emotions deeply. The noise and haste of the world were avoidable. I recognized that I was not simply “okay” or “fine,” or “pissed” or “happy;” there were countless nuances. The quietude uncovered heretofore subconscious corners of my inner landscape. I realized that I’d been living from an external locus of control, with the more ideal approach living from an internal locus. In other words, being true to, and trusting, oneself. 
     I used Ken McGill’s tools to increase emotional self awareness. He also gave me great tips on how to communicate honestly and succinctly with others.
     The key to a better world, in my opinion, is humans who know themselves and use self-knowledge to thrive, and also to behave better. Good cogs in the wheel of life, as yoga teacher Rich Logan once said to to me back in the good old days when we were footloose and fancy free young adults. I find myself asking if I am being a good cog when I’m on a w
alk, bike ride, drive, or with others. (I have failed miserably more than a time or two, but it's getting easier with effort).
     With the gift of ample free time mixed with the fear of death, there was plenty of time and a dire need to meditate. Meditation improves cognition, and oils our internal neurological functioning. It helps us grow accustomed to sitting with discomfort and coming to peace with what’s happening inside— the good, the bad, and the ugly— instead of numbing or denying the truth of who we are. Being more mindful of how you feel, and how you want to act, is the first step to behaving better towards yourself and others.
     Sitting on a meditation cushion or yoga mat, in a place of worship, with a trusted mentor, in a support group, at a desk with a journal or recorder, or any other means towards introspection is crucial. Inner work can translate to being a better outer person. It’s at least worth a try. We owe it to future generations. It’s acceptable that this is a bumpy journey. We will make mistakes, but as long as we can apologize when we need to, that’s the best we can be expected to do. As my left coast friend said, if we value personal responsibility in enhancing the quality of our beings, as well looking out for others to the best of our abilities, life gets easier. Anger, fear, dread, judgment of others and greed will not get us there. Pick the most difficult person in your life and send them good thoughts. It works.
     I suggested that a client use a simple loving kindness phrase, silently in her mind, when confronted by her irritable spouse. She was pleased to share that silently repeating “may you be well, happy and peaceful” diffused her anger. Well, she added “you son of a bitch,” to the end. It's easy to be angry at others for not doing what we want them to do, if we are not careful. Bitterness kills.
     To assuage my fear of death, I studied with a death doula once. I do not believe in heaven, or an after life. I feel that I can come to terms with death if I live a life that is tolerable at the least— coping with pain and the other challenges of being human, and aging — and a life that’s often joyful at best. 
The more comfortable we are with realizing that we are simply corpses waiting to happen, the less seriously we can take ourselves. The more quickly we can accept life on life's terms, rather than letting the dangerous parts of our egos run the show, the more we can settle down.
     Self-knowledge mixed with effort, humility and courage can lead to a more authentic self. This is illustrated beautifully by Desiree Ford who told her story on the This Is Actually Happening podcast. After extensive rehab for a traumatic brain injury that resulted in a coma, her memory started returning. She tried to get back to her old self, and the harder she tried, the worse she felt. She finally realized that she must embrace the new version of herself, and then she found relief.
“Your life is yours to create.
You may only exist in your mind
It seems like everyone is sleepwalking through their waking life,
Or wake-walking through their dreams
I am just trying to get a sense of where I am
Just wake up.”
— Waking Life, film by Richard Linklater


* Editor's note: She IS an extrovert.  

4 comments:

  1. I never liked labels. It sort of forces one into a whole set of criteria. Why can't someone be both an introvert and an extrovert? It's circumstantial.
    Most people who know me would consider me extroverted but trust me, I look forward to my alone times. Honest introspection is healthy.
    Interesting about your fear of death, considering your spiritual side.
    Maybe it's the fear of the unknown. I subscribe to Woody Allen's philosophy when he says, "I am not afraid of death. I just don't want to be there when it happens."

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    Replies
    1. Great quote Les. I believe I am an ambivert. Love people but need a lot of alone time to recharge.

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    2. "It's circumstantial," indeed. To a certain extent, I feel like I'm an extrovert when among people that I know, and an introvert among folks I don't know. And the larger the group, the less I'm a factor in the proceedings...

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  2. Neil, for some reason I have not been getting your daily blog. I was a long time subscriber and for some reason I've stopped getting "Every Goddamn Day" every day. I miss it. Can I be reactivated? Thank you,

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