Thursday, December 11, 2014

For the record

I am an expat. That is a person who lives abroad but retains their citizenship to the country I which they were born. I am a US citizen living in England.

I moved here with my family in my 30s. It was going to be a great adventure for 2 years. Seventeen years later it has been. We moved for the opportunity to experience a different culture and to give our children an experience of the larger world. After 2 years the jobs stayed here and you stay where the bread and butter is.

I would not want to give up my US citizenship but it is getting harder and harder to keep it as an expat. We pay taxes in the UK (much higher then we would in the US) but I still need to file US taxes every year. We never owe anything but I spend over $600 each year to an accountant to help us show the IRS that. My kids need to start filing now too. I am no longer represented in the US government but do vote (but my vote is never opened) unless as a tie break. It is challenging to be an expat. It costs me money in tax bureaucracy for two countries! I have no 'home'. When I visit the US things have changed and the home I remember no longer exists. Some US friends would consider us borderline traitors and here in the UK-I am always seen as the 'American'. I love the US and often miss it and the amazing 'can do' attitude of people who live there.  So why do I continue to live overseas?

We stay because we have have built a life here over 17 years. Some of my closest friends are Irish, French, anglo-Indian and English. But I am still an American and I would like to think that I preform a service as an expat. Expats are ambassadors for the US. We help bridge the cultural gap and promote a understanding of each others cultures promoting understanding and maybe finding a shared humanity despite cultural differences. I work as a nurse for the NHS so I interact with many people each day-most with preconceived notions about Americans. We get to know each other as people. Colleagues laugh at the odd phrases that I say and I laugh at theirs. We connect. I would like to think that promoting understanding between cultures has the power to create a more peaceful world. Staying within borders would be like locking ourselves in our houses and only watching Fox news. How could we possibly understand or get to know each other.

My children have had the opportunities I hoped. They are multicultural. We live across the street from a Hindu and Muslim family. We live on the same street as families who are English, Irish , South African, Kiwis and Australian. My kids have gone to school with students who are English, Cypriat, Korean, Polish, Chinese, French and Irish. That was worth staying for because now their home is the world.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Nov 15

There are many guests who come to my mindfulness house. Fear, a hastening heart, despair, sadness, and  anxiety  visit often but what I realized today is there is one who thankfully never leaves. I may not always acknowledge him but God is always there too. He sits with me and my guests.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Nov 9

I am a child when it comes to mindfulness and that is a very freeing thought.

After 6 weeks of practice I have learned to sometimes sit with my hands palms up. I am open to what I experience while meditating, be it pleasant or unpleasant.

Wonder if I can do that with each moment of my day.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Nov 6

Some days I find it very hard to 'sit' with my feelings during meditation. I acknowledge them and then sit very uncomfortably with them during the periods of meditation. Yesterday they were manic feelings—I nicknamed the hastening heart-the flitty 'doing mode' that I picture as what a hummingbird may feel like. There are two modes on those days- going wildly fast and dead stop. Another one I find hard to sit with is feelings of disappoint with myself – the shroud.

I am writing today about my feelings during yesterday's meditation and the interesting thing is I can look back at those feelings. Yesterday and they seemed overwhelming and consuming. Today I see them for what they are—passing trains.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Nov 5

I mostly find the periods I meditate can be hard and often not satisfying in themselves. I often spend 30 minutes coming back and back and back. But what I am finding is that practising seems to make me more aware of the moments in my day. I savour them.

Nov 1

Doing is easier then being

Oct 31

Being in the moment helps me to see myself – I observe the judgements and thoughts that guide my actions for I am with them—then I can choose my direction

Oct 30

What I notice about Mindfulness

  • It helps me recognize my 'flight ' mode
  • It is a getting to know myself
  • helps me begin the long journey towards loving myself

Oct 29

What is mindfulness?

    Being/living in this moment (before God).
    The present is a gift.
    Taste and See the goodness of the Lord.

In pleasant experiences, it is being fully present to now and being able to savour it (I find a sense of deep gratitude follows).

In unpleasant experiences, it is being fully with the moment (grounded and coming to the breath) recognizing second arrows. The intent is to know it with kindness to ourselves (and be with it in God's presence).

In the mundane, being fully present and in doing this I recognize the miracle that is this moment.

The irony of this post is that I am trying to capture it in writing it down. Last post I was being critical at the teachers/guides trying to do just that. It can not be caught-only glimpsed.

Oct 28

There is a feeling of being increasingly frustrated with the practices-especially those where I listen to the CD guidance. Last night my back ached from the posture and at the end I was irritable with the pace and saw the guidance as interruptions. I also find the written guidance overbearing. I think that mindfulness is something I need to discover for myself. I need to be set in the right direction and then left to it. I don't think it can be explained or taught.

It has also been difficult as I find focusing on how I am feeling to be difficult. Just being aware of depression and anxiety leaves me feeling despairing as is focusing on it frequently. I think I can 'check in' with myself, acknowledge it with kindness, speak to the the double arrows and then I add a final step. I bring it before God. Not sure how I do this.

So I am going off road. Using my curiosity to explore the possibilities. As Fr Alan suggested when I spoke to him about meditation—'Just do it.' Forget about reading the manual and jump in...

Oct 27

Feeling sad and discouraged after meditating. I have been with my feelings and thoughts and worries. I have sat with them, accepted them, breathed with them and into them and sat with each breath – each moment. I am left with grief. I am not feeling refreshed or renewed but weary.

Then the secondary arrows—guilt over my self pity and despair. Forgive me Lord—you have given me so much and my burdens are not as heavy as others. The feeling of wanting to run away and that my life should not be like this right now... Being torn between letting go of my kids and picking them up and all the holding of breath in between. Breathing and acknowledging all this.

Need to face the day.

Like Eamonn's experience last week. My meditation has been my unpleasant event.

A reminder that meditation is not an escape and neither is offering it to God. 'Climb every mountain' comes to mind.

Oct 25, 2014

The beginning of the fourth week of mindfulness.  Thoughts from last nights session on sitting meditation:
  • Remember the practice with the raisin--now taste the breath
  • Ride the breath as if you are in a dingy-up and down on the waves
  • Be in each moment of the sitting meditation.  It is not -can I do 30 min.--it is this moment
I think that we are actually mindful in many ways in our lives already.  Recognize that and feel free to build on them. When I experience those moments I feel a moving sense of gratitude. The story of the boy who spent his afternoon watching a flower bud open over the course of an afternoon..  It was an afternoon well spent.  I want to watch a flower open and a leaf fall.
Buddha's double arrow.  First arrow-an unpleasant event.  Second arrow- our interpretation (thoughts) and reactions (feelings). We can recognize our second arrow and perhaps in recognizing it prevent it from compounding the unpleasantness.  We then are free to be with the first arrow, grounded by our breathing practice.  I can go a step further and speak to God on it. My breathing leads me to a place where I can 'be' before God with it.

Friday, October 24, 2014

October 24, 2014

I came home last night from work very tired. The day ended with answering tricky emails and problems that I currently can not solve. It all seems to get very complicated and I think I am missing something. Life must be more simple then this. 

So I came home very late to a very busy household and instantly was disappointed no one had started dinner. Disappointed again that at this point there would be no quiet dinner by the light of my Diwali candle. I was gently ushered off by my loving husband to do my mindfulness. He knew I was on a downward spiral. I was due to practice mindful movement but the room was messy and lights seemed glaring. This felt like more work.

So I turned off the lights (that way I couldn't see the untidiness). I lit my Diwali candle and it shined in the darkness. I remembered the card that had come with it that said 'Celebrate Life'. I did a moments meditation giving away my concerns from the day. Then I did my mindful movement.

It was still hard but somehow the candlelit space that had been carved out made it possible and then I rejoined the full house rather then feeling a need to challenge it. For now I think my practice requires a carved out physical space. I can imagine that eventually that won't be the case. I suspect 'the space' is really within me. But for now having it outside helps me be with the inside.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Oct 23,2014

Ok...OK..So I admit that I have a hidden intent. I want inner peace – like Kung Fu Panda but getting there is a real drag because I am not supposed to be going anywhere. And on top of that I have to 'be with' myself and there are somethings I don't like much about me. So I am stuck with 'being' with someone I don't always like...Hmm

My unpleasant events diary this week:

I tend to turn most negative events in my day on their head and reinvent them as positive so this has been difficult. I am finding I am not necessarily a positive person but can't stand the thought of living negatively so I make a choice to put a positive twist on events. Am I escaping – maybe. I think mindfulness is teaching me to be with the disappointment first before choosing a path.

One of my unpleasant events yesterday was driving home – as I just wanted to be home and was tired and cranky after working and getting out later then I hoped. I realized that the event itself was not unpleasant – it was my feelings and thoughts that made it that way.

I think that maybe I just learned two more mindfulness lessons. This mindfulness stuff is hard work.