Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Enemy: Your Brain

Lately, I've been reading a lot of books regarding spirituality, near-death experiences and overall ways to cope with the mind's inability to shut the hell up. One of the books that I particularly enjoyed was called, The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. I know, I know, I'm like a decade late on this best seller, but I feared it may have other belief systems that went against mine. I'm more open to other belief systems today, but surprisingly, they referenced a lot about Jesus in this book. The main gist is to separate yourself from your physical mind and become your "Being" -- your "soul" and observe what the mind does to you or what it conjures up. And once you witness and notice the thoughts, all thoughts seem to dissolve, as if you caught your own mind undressing. That's the best way I can describe it, because this book can be very 'wordy', the the point of dropping it and picking up The Cat in the Hat instead. I guess it's very hard to comprehend, or better yet, explain the 5th dimensional world -- to actually explain something that human beings are not supposed to know. So Eckhart Tolle's descriptions can really baffle your mind if you are not ready to take in his 'awesomeness' as I would even call it. It teaches you that all we have is "now" -- everything else such as the past and the future are all illusions. Years ago I wrote about this very topic, but not on the level to which he took it. He even throws in a dash of quantum physics in there which is just mind blowing.

Even Anita Moorjani's book, Dying To Be Me taught me a lot about the most basic fact of how loving yourself can improve your life. To love yourself -- to forgive yourself -- to accept yourself 'as is' right at this very moment is one of the most powerful things I have done for ....me. I have read a lot of articles that sort of mirrored this message back and forth, but reading it from personal accounts and also by diligent practice of my own has sort of awakened me on a whole new level. If you have already read these two books that I mentioned, you'll know that it gets a bit repetitive -- same words are used, same phrases have to be reiterated only due to the fact that there is no other words or phrase to really describe this awesome 'lifting of the veil' so to speak -- the realization that reality itself is not real at all. I won't even go into details because you're gonna think I'm a bit cooky if not already. 

So, my point is, just by reading these two books, my daily life has changed greatly. For instance, I am no longer complaining about winter. Instead, I am walking outside with my dog, taking in every sound of the birds, each crystal left in the fallen snow and especially, that deep sense of silence in the midst of a cold wintery day. There's nothing like it. I'm learning and experiencing appreciating every single little thing in my life -- even feeling my own breath, my own spirit, as well as controlling my own mind from chitchatting too much. My mind feels less complicated because I'm not thinking anymore. (Have I ever...?) But thinking in terms of, "what if" and thinking way too much about my future and causing a great deal of fear. Fear is the number one reason why people overthink and overanalyze everything. Fear keeps us from making the right choices. For instance, I used to fear eating saturated fats. Now? Saturated fats are good, so now I fear eating carbs. It's a vicious cycle. So, what Anita Moorjani taught me was to not fear it at all. I keep it in check, but I no longer avoid things out of fear. I see obsessive people in my Paleo group who are on this diet in fear of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. They eat out of fear. But what if they still ate the same foods, and yet had no fear of indulging once in a while? It doesn't matter in the bigger picture of life because we're all trying to do our best. But what if the perfectionist in us makes us stall a little? As Eckhart Tolle says, whatever you resist, persists -- then if we truly resist or (detest) a certain way of living, it just won't work as good as we thought. If we do things out of fear, we do a half ass job. Anything done with courage and confidence is done with contentment, whether we succeed or fail. It's about enjoying "now" and living in the present. 

But I'm still finding myself in certain situations listening to my mind's clutter and getting frustrated over everyday bullshit. It's not to say that I'm just gonna stop caring about my future or forgetting my past entirely, but I am going to consciously try to enjoy every passing moment, even if unpleasant -- trying to make the best of each "now" that presents itself. I'm so sick and tired of my mind reminding me that my future may not be so bright or my mind reminding me that my past is why I'm such a fuck up. The mind can be your worst enemy, filling you up with negative and obsessive thought patterns. So, I'm choosing to observe the mind as it starts to open its trap and watch it all dissolve. Once you witness the mind in action -- it automatically stops. Tolle gave a little test for us to take in the book. He says to close your eyes, make your Being (or soul) the witness to your thoughts. Wait for your mind to 'talk'. Wait for the first thought that enters your head... Do it now. 

Did it take a long time? Most people say it does. So, if you practice "observing" those thoughts, you'll be more conscious not to overload your mind with "what ifs" and negative dialogues. 

I have come to accept the fact that there is nothing I can do to change whatever it is that's in God's will. I can't take away my mom's cancer. I can't bring back my father who lost his battle with cancer. I can't fix the world. But I can change the way I view things and I can only do the best at the given moment it presents me with. Many of us lie awake at night because our minds won't shut the hell up. We stew and focus on certain events or things that are about to take place and all of those pesky "what if" scenarios. We drive ourselves insane with things that have not happened yet! And most of the time, they don't happen as our mind "predicts" it will. I guess I just came to a point in my life where I can't live this way anymore. I refuse to. If that means labeling me a "floater" in life -- then so be it. I'm sick of planning things out and then coming to a deep realization that it was all one big fucking disappointment. I'm not going to expect anything other than what the present time is giving now "NOW". Not later, not in the future...now. 

I'm about to go to my doctor's appointment and wait there for like 2 hours and enjoy every single second of it. (Sometimes you gotta lie to yourself too!) Just a little update: I'm scheduled to have a partial hysterectomy due to my dysmenorrhea. The intense pain I go through each month has ruined my quality of life since I was 12 years old. On top of that, I had to take massive amounts of NSAIDs (pain relievers/ibuprofen) that ultimately poked a few holes in my stomach lining. So, without the pain every month, I won't need the pain meds, which leaves me with a healthy stomach and well, some peace of mind knowing I won't be suffering for a week out of the month. It has prevented me from living a full life. And now, I am ready to fully live life as it should be lived: without fear. I always feared getting my period, especially if I had to go somewhere or go on vacation. I planned everything around my period. Special events weren't attended due to my pain and nobody ever believed me because this type of pain is very rare. It can get to the point of passing out or vomiting. Not a pretty scene.  So please say a prayer or send some positive energy my way. I leave in 30 minutes to get examined and set up for my little 'vacation' in the hospital. I might be slow with the writing for a while after surgery. But go out and get those books if you haven't read them yet. I really feel like it has changed my life for the better. It was actually one of the reasons I came to the decision of finally getting this hysterectomy. Time is precious and I'm sick of wasting it. 

For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog for some of her famous recipes!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Seasons of Life

This morning, I woke up to snow, once again. It was coming down fairly hard. I grabbed my phone to check Facebook, because I have a whole lotta' soccer moms posting about all of their school closings and delays -- this meaning to me, that my Mt. Kilimanjaro of a hill that I live on top of would soon imprison me once again. I grabbed my cup of coffee and headed into my studio to look at the snow, unwind and check my email before work. Everything under the sun tried to distract me, from phone calls that couldn't wait to my little dog just wanting to jump up and snuggle on me. I instantly just dropped everything and picked up my dog instead. I grabbed a blanket, covered her up as we watched the snow together. Soon enough, the sun started to shine even while it was snowing. I felt this incredible sense of peace -- as though this was the right choice -- just to drop everything and enjoy the present time. Besides, when would I ever get to see a "sun snow shower" again?  Soon enough, the seasons will change and I'll soon be hearing the sounds of birds, crickets and tree frogs. But there is definitely something beautiful about that strange silence when it's snowing. Nothing moves. Everything seems to stand still. All of the wildlife disappears without even small traces of footprints as evidence. And if you see a black bear while the snow is still on the ground, you better run fast. No way am I playing dead to a starving mama and her cubs.

I truly believe seasons are a reflection of our ever-changing existence. During this month back in 2012, I remember practically living in the hospital while visiting my dad when he had his battle with cancer. It was a very busy time driving back and forth, all the while trying to take care of ourselves in the process. It was even more challenging when they sent him back home. At any given time, my phone would ring, sometimes even in the middle of the night. "Dad needs an ambulance!" He would get sepsis infections every other week. It was getting much more frequent as his cancer progressed. At that point, I always left a pair of jeans, shoes and a set of keys right next to my nightstand, all prepped 'just in case' I needed to shuffle back up to the ER. It was never a dull moment. I needed something -- something to hug -- something to love. When I rescued Lola in May of 2012, she rescued me each and every time I came home from the hospital. I'd sit out on my deck overlooking the mountains, have a glass of wine and cry my eyes out while hugging her. And even though I was going through that "awful season" -- I was surrounded by all this beauty and feeling the unconditional love from my pup. It buffered a lot of my tension and sadness. I truly believe that God gives us those little "buffers" to bear those hard times in our life.

And then there was pure silence in July of 2012. That strange combination of sadness and peace struck once again. Dad had lost his fight with cancer even though he held on as much as he could. The struggle was not only killing him, it was killing all of us watching him suffer so terribly. We were even concerned about our mother's wellbeing since she wasn't taking good care of herself while being the main caretaker.  She didn't want a stranger doing it and that was that. She rejected hospice's offers to help all the time. I don't know how she did it. We were getting nervous wondering if she would even make it through this bad season. The "silence" back in July of 2012 was a very solemn and peaceful time for the family. We went into what seemed like a 'resting mode' -- where we just didn't say much and took a break for the rest of the summer. Strange, because Dad had the loudest voice in the family -- you could hear him a mile away. Now, the silence was almost deafening. It was strange. It was our "new normal" and we had to adjust to this new season.

I'm beginning to realize that it's not as bad as it seems sometimes. Like, having cabin fever and bitching and moaning over it, when I should be grateful for having my family, my home, my work and even my silence. You never know what's right around the corner with each season. Even though spring may seem much better than being snowbound in the midst of a bitterly cold February, there may be a a season of chaos with that alluring springtime sunshine. So, I am choosing to enjoy this beautiful silence of winter as it's combined with the love and tranquility along with a sprinkle of anticipation of the upcoming season.

For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog for some of her famous recipes!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Dying To Be Free

Working from home sometimes takes its toll. Most of the time, I am very busy or just very content being at home. I'd rather make my own dinner, drink my own wine and be in the comforts of my own dwelling. Don't get me wrong, we go out quite often, but not when the forecast constantly calls for snow and ice storms.  If I'm not working, I have a million hobbies, ranging from art, music and of course, reading books from different authors and genres. Since I was getting a bit frazzled by all the snow and ice that left us homebound for quite a spell, my sister Dawn suggested that I should purchase, Dying To Be Me by Anita Moorjani. I'm old fashioned -- I need to feel the pages and not bother with the migraines of staring into a tablet. Anyway, it's a story of a woman who battled with cancer and eventually, experienced a near death experience, (NDE). Dawn and I were discussing our continuous grieving process after our father had lost his battle with cancer, and how it changed from day to day. And sometimes when we don't realize that some of our actions can be part of our grieving process, it can leave us with anxiety and fear. So, when I got Anita Moorjani's book, I was hoping for a miracle. I needed something else to believe in -- something that someone experienced instead of believed. Perhaps my faith needs a little energizing.

"I had the choice to come back . . . or not. I choose to return when I realized that 'heaven' is a state, not a place." 
This is on the front cover of the book. With trying to keep in mind that this is HER experience -- not mine -- it sort of downgraded my own beliefs as a Christian. And when I say "Christian" -- I sincerely mean a "relationship with God".  See, what Anita describes is a bit different than what I believe, to what I've learned all of these years. It sort of threw me for a loop when she described all of us "as one" -- which is a nice thought -- but but but...?
"There are many rooms in my Father's home, and I am going to prepare a place for you. If this were not so, I would tell you plainly." John 14:12
This is what Jesus said in the Bible. If He is going to prepare a place for me, and on top of that, promise me that it was not a lie -- then how are we "all one" with different rooms? When Anita was experiencing her NDE, she explained how she could see all of her loved ones around her physical body. She even heard her husband talking to the doctor 40 feet away down the corridor of the hospital. She saw her brother on a flight rushing to come see her before she took her last breath. She even saw her deceased father, spoke to him and even felt a "oneness" with everyone on earth and beyond.

There were no gods though. Her experience sounded like the beliefs of Catholicism when they speak of a purgatory -- kind of a place to 'get it right' or a place to reconcile your wrongs. There are no gods or anything 'spectacular' other than you're not in the heavy weight of your carnal body. So my question is: did she enter the first realm of the 5th dimension -- or was this some sort of purgatory, perhaps awaiting another life?  Her father gave her a choice to either stay in this 'state' of 'heaven' or go back to her physical body and return to life. Shouldn't God be the one to give her that option? But which god? She hesitantly chose life, but in a whole different aspect where she didn't fear anything at all once she returned. So, she lived without the "worst case scenario" and the "what ifs" -- she LIVED her life as we're supposed to live it.

I don't want to quote some of her book, in fear that I may give too much away, but I will say this: I feel a sense of relief and appreciation for what I have and for the moment I'm living right now. With my anxiety disorder and depression that all stems from a great fear of EVERYTHING -- I sort of go back to the words of her book, and the thereafter of her return and remember what she said and how she lived her life without fear. She did more things, took more risks and rose above all her fears, especially the fear of judgment of others. She lived her life the way she wanted to -- not the way people wanted her to.

With that being said, I also found some things disturbing, to which I addressed to Anita. I addressed my concerns to her about her empathy toward terrorists. She told me in a beautiful long letter she had taken the time out to write me, that she doesn't condone the act of terrorism or the hurt or pain of other living things, which is why we have prisons here. She said that through her experience on the other side, everyone's struggles and pain are understood. I said, maybe that's why the Amish forgive so readily -- a deeper level of forgiveness. But how can someone from ISIS go around decapitating people and yet have the same right as good-hearted souls and be in the same place? Maybe it's like fish trying to comprehend algebra. Maybe we just don't 'get it' here.  I always give the analogy of Jesus, Buddha and Allah sitting up on some cloud laughing and saying, "Ugh wow, you guys have it all wrong!"

One of my greatest fears is being lied to. I think it has to do more with the disappointment of holding onto an idea, dream or some sort of hope that there is something better around the corner. I guess everyone has been lied to if you think about it. Many of us believed in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. Adults did that so we would have fun and find life interesting. They watched us get excited in hopes of seeing all of our little made up 'friends'. Of course, it's kind of like religion. "If you're bad, Santa won't come!" Isn't that kinda like Christianity? If we're bad, we won't get to see God. So, we try so hard to be good here on earth and be the "good little girl or boy" that Santa, or in this case, God wants us to be so we can receive our "gifts".  What if a child refused "Santa Claus" and chose "Hanukah"? And yet, they still receive all their "gifts". So, by choosing a different path, do we still get to see the good things in the afterlife?

I guess this is the first book to not only frustrate me and challenge my beliefs, but it's the first book to make me realize that maybe different paths all lead to the same place. But that fear...that fear...the "what if" I am wrong? So thank you, Anita for not only challenging my own beliefs, but for giving me more peace of mind. I guess I'm just dying to be free from my own fears.

For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog for some of her famous recipes!

Emotional Self-Preservation

"I'm Sorry." After the last couple of years, and whatever it is that you may be personally going through, it's especially ...