I’m a Rambling Man

This week I went to my  first mindfulness meditation workshop. It was just an introduction, so we weren’t meditating the whole time, but it was a lot different than I’d thought it would be. I’ve been to multiple meditation-y type things over the course of my life, and I have found that I’m not very good at it. I pride myself on being a decent listener, so I know I can focus when I need to, but when it comes to meditation I feel like Dug from up.

Mindfulness meditation is different from other meditations I’ve tried in that it forces you to focus on the present, what is happening now. In the session I went to, we were told to focus on our body, specifically the breath. I really liked this because it gave me something substantial to focus on rather than emptying myself of everything. I felt like I was in control. But even having something to focus on, I was all over the place. My mind turned into cooked spaghetti! Every thought led to a different thought, which led to a quote from Pride and Prejudice, which led to why I should definitely try on a regency-styled dress before I die, which led to women in literature, which led to why Frozen has such a great soundtrack, but bad character development, which led to crap, I should be counting my breaths, I need to let this go….haha, let it go…and I’ll rise like the break of dawn….And there I went again.

Eventually I opened my eyes and focused on a spot on the floor as well as on my breathing so that my mind would shut up. Apparently I need multiple things to keep my mind focused on one thing. I’m all for being comfortable in silence with others (and when I’m in a good place I can even be quiet with myself), but I need to work on being comfortable in complete silence with myself. The combination of audio and visual silence is a lot of silence for the brain. Silence is golden, but hit someone with a stick of gold and you know how hard it is.

I breathe in, my body is calm.
I breathe out, I am going to be okay.

Keeping your mind focused on the present is a great way to minimize stress. Why stress about things that might never happen? Worried about seeing your ex? You’re not seeing him now so stop worrying, worry when you see him. Worried about a paper that hasn’t been assigned yet, but will determine your grade? There’s nothing you can do right now, so let it go until there is something you can do. What if you don’t graduate, what if you can’t find a job, what if, what if, what if.

I breathe in, my body is calm.
I breathe out, I am going to be okay.

Focus on the now. Focus on your body. It is alive. Breathe in, breathe out.
We are going to be okay.

On Being Alright

Sometimes I get the impression that being weird is a negative thing. With all the magazines sporting covers with perfect looking women and men in trendy outfits and fancy lipstick, being just me can feel…lame. But recently I’ve been seeing a trend emerging that I really like. Mindy Kaling, Jennifer Lawrence, and the TV show Girls are all things I’ve been seeing around and watching recently and those people all embrace their quirky personalities, they embrace themselves. And that is really a great message to have out there. No matter who you are or what you like, own who you are and what makes you happy inside. We are all just random pieces of stuff that somehow fit together to make a person.

Sometimes I dress like a hobo, sometimes I feel naked without make-up on my face, I listen to music incessantly on repeat, I know all the lyrics to every Disney song, I write over-dramatic poetry about nature, I am very indecisive, sometimes I like peas and sometimes I hate them, I have way too many shoes, I listen to both pop music and The Moldy Peaches, I am most at home in the country but I’ve always wanted to live in NYC, I drink too much red wine, I always leave my phone in the car, I thrive on dark chocolate and my life will never be complete until I have a dog.

These things used to make me feel less cool, less proud of myself, but as this new year keeps on, I’m finally beginning to accept myself. Yeah, I still have a long way to go, but I don’t think this journey stops until we’re dead, so as long as I keep walking, keep improving, I think I’m doing alright.

What about you?

To Boldly Go

When I first learned about Lewis and Clark in elementary school I went through a brief period where I wanted to be an explorer. It sounded so great, striking out into unknown territory on a wild adventure to unveil new things, be it people or land or animals. Nevermind the bugs or the diseases or the lack of clean water and feminine hygiene products, no, I could handle anything.

However, I went on to change my mind, deciding that I wanted to be a  veterinarian, then a doctor, then a zoo keeper, then a veterinarian again, then an english teacher, until finally I decided to be a special education teacher.

Life moved as fast as my indecision and soon I was looking back, wishing I had decided to be an explorer…then maybe I’d have discovered new lands, settled down and lived as a hermit until the end of my days. I might not have become an explorer in the literal sense, but life itself is a journey into the unknown and unbeknownst to me at the time, we have been explorers our whole lives. Exploring ourselves, our surroundings, our relationships, what we like and dislike, our favorite music, the best movies, what makes us happy and what makes us sad.

I am an explorer.

And with things like journaling, blogging, picture albums and memories, we are all cartographers. Life cartographers–we leave trail markers everywhere we go, documenting where we’ve been and then we move on, always moving, to the next trail marker, the next bend in the road.

Like Lewis and Clark, we wake up every morning not knowing what terrain lies before us or what types of discoveries we’ll be making. We only know that we will have to strain and push ourselves until we can set up camp for the night and take stock of what the day revealed. It always reveals something, seemingly insignificant or not. How often have you been in bed at night, mind racing as you try to make sense of your circumstances?

As a cartographer, I decided to physically map out my life. I zoomed way out and only focused on the educational trail markers (middle school, high school, college) that split my life into chunks. The end result was a bit abstract, but I love the way it reflects my life:

2014-02-01 23.27.40

Each section has a different pattern and each pattern reflects the overarching feeling of that time in my life. I’m currently in University so I added some arrows since there are still so many ways it can turn out.

Being an explorer is scary business! But maps are a way to remember where you’ve been and to remind yourself of all the unexplored territory that’s still waiting to be uncovered. You have the choice to stay where you feel safe or to strike out and boldly go where you haven’t gone before.

Either way life is going to take you to places you’ve never been. I say lets grab some camping equipment, bug spray,  a lot of tampons and get out there!