Unfinished Business! GRADUATION POST
So my dashboard says...guess I better wrap up this edition of Kenzai Mind before I get in trouble with fab trainer, Cece. Honestly, I don't have much to write. Some days there is so much to say, some days there is nothing that wants to come out. Mind as a program is so unique. All that is required is that you sit down, shut up, see what comes up and observe it without getting all wrapped up in it. Sounds so simple, yet it is way more challenging than any physical Kenzai workout. As one of the lessons pointed out...the results of Kenzai Mind are subtle. They can't really be measured, nor even described. The program brought some stillness to my mind but out of the stillness sometimes demons arose that required observation, understanding, forgiveness and eventually letting go of...not easy work. I wish I could say that my mind harbors only peace, love, joy and light, but alas, this is just not the case. I am just as flawed as the next human and maybe the real secret to peace is learning to accept the lightness and the darkness without judgement and being able to make measured choices in the face of strong emotions.
Thank you to all my Mind teammates for sharing their stories and their struggles. Love and infinite blessings to you all! We are all beautiful works in progress.
I am deeply grateful for the people in the Kenzai community. Thank you for all your encouraging and supportive words. I continue to be a part of Kenzai for many reasons, but the community is always the top one.
A brief update on Mind program progress. According to the doc's scales, I am down another 1/2 kg. I've continued meditating everyday. I tried to break up my meditation into one morning and one evening meditation yesterday, per the fine print. I failed. The evening meditation did not happen due to work commitments, children commitments and the many other activities of the evening. I do much better getting it in one chuck of 20 minutes in the morning. Plus, I like longer sits. So, for the rest of Mind, I am in for a long morning session. I've continued my daily core rehab exercises and started incorporating foam rolling into my routine twice a day. My main focus for foam rolling is on releasing the tension in my low and mid-back. I wish there was a way to describe the feeling of the energy that is released during these back release sessions. It feels like a lot of pent up negative, toxic energy flows out of the locked up places in my back, through all the energy channels of my body and out the different points of my body (head, fingers, toes). I know, that sounds sorta weird and new agey, but it's a real feeling. Maybe some of you have felt it before? The feeling confirms to me that my appointment with the Chiropractic Therapy Center today will be important.
Hi Team! I am here, I am here, I am here. Quick status report. I am meditating daily. Reading my lessons daily. Exercising almost daily. Keeping my diet mostly clean. I've snuck a cookie here and there. Nothing earth shattering. I am down 2 kgs, from 57 to 55...that is according to two doctor's visits, 10 days apart. I don't so much follow my weight. I only become aware of it in certain situations. I've composed many, many blog posts in my head...some while I'm supposed to be meditating but have not quite made the minutes to write them up. Wish I could beam them all to you but alas, you will never get to experience all of them. I will share a couple of them, in summary.
For my free meditation, I've decided that every Thursday, I will sit and mindfully listen to a new podcast called Meditative Story. If you have not heard of or experienced this podcast, I highly recommend it. It only just started around the time that Elijah was born. I found it one night while I was comforting my newborn and looking for comfort myself. I downloaded, listened and fell in love with it. The podcast is 20-30 minute long stories, composed beautifully and meant to help the listener to tune into the experience of the storyteller. Fosters human connection and present moment awareness through the story and prompts. I love it and again highly recommend it. Check it out!
The other issue that I wanted to blog about is much more personal. I'm not really sure how to bring it up or describe it to you. I suffer from bouts of depression that have become much more pronounced since having children. I'm actually not sure if it would be described as clinical depression...I wonder if it would be more like post-partum depression? Mostly, it's characterized by a deep sense of self-hatred and self-loathing, which spills over and affects my dynamics with my family. My husband and I have talked a lot about it, trying to understand where it comes from...I have some theories which probably each make up part of the puzzle.
One, children have a way of reflecting back the best parts of you but also the worst parts of you. I see my failings in the way I react to my children. I see my bad behaviors in the way they act towards me and other people. I see how imperfect I am and struggle with the picture of it. Two, meditation also tends to reflect the worst parts of you. Our lessons covered that just today, I think. I see how trite, mundane and petty most of my thoughts are on a daily basis. I struggle to love those parts of myself, as I suspect many people do. Third, I suspect when I was a small baby/child, I experienced some emotional and physical violence that has left me with a small sense of self-worth. Let me be clear. My parents were wonderful parents and did the best with what they had at the time they had me, but I was a "surprise" and they were young. I spent a lot of my time with my mother in my pre-memory years, and my mom could be loving but also snap in an instant. My mom and dad fought a lot, a whole lot. I know I was spanked on more than one occasion for very small things that I feel children should not be spanked for...and definitely yelled at and spoken to in unthinking ways that somehow are bubbling up now that I have children. My children trigger me and out come these ways that I was treated as a child. My meditation/mindfulness practice is advanced enough to make me aware of the reactivity but not advanced enough to always control my reactivity. I then feel ashamed of myself for potentially damaging my children the way my parents damaged me. And, it just becomes a vicious cycle of shame and self-hatred that when combined with sleepless nights, crying fighting children, 40-50 hour work weeks, culture-shock and endless to-do lists makes for a very unhappy, unbalanced Jenny.
I do not know how to describe the general sense of unwellness percolating through my body, part of which stems from the stress described above and part of which stems from imbalance in my body and posture caused by 3 pregnancies in less than 5 years. I went to the doctor with laundry list of symptoms that I am certain are manifesting because my immune system is shot. My nervous system is not communicating properly. The meditation and exercise help, but I will start to visit a chiropractic therapy center soon to try to get help balancing out my body. They do physiotherapy and massage therapy, too. I probably could benefit from seeing a psychiatrist, too, but let's start with getting my physical body sorted out and see if my mind doesn't follow suit.
Last Saturday, my family and I moved from our temporary housing into our new house. We were overjoyed to be in our own space with a kitchen and a small pool to kick around in on the super hot, humid days. The house is basically empty still. Our shipment is still sitting in Mozambique waiting to board a boat and meet us here in Indonesia. I bought enough stuff to function. Kitchenware, sleeping solutions, a place to sit and eat and some other small items to ensure a semi-acceptable level of comfort for the next couple of months. Shipment now expected to depart November 30 and arrive January 6. Despite the disruption, I've only missed one meditation. I've moved most days and eaten about 50% on diet. I'm settling into a routine now, so the diet will get better over the next couple of weeks. I was 100% on point the first week, so I'm sitting at around 75% right now. Not bad.
One of the surprise discoveries upon moving into our new house was how close we are to a mosque. The city is so packed and sprawling it is hard to tell what is around you. I'm constantly discovering new things/places just meters from my home and work. So, now, I have a new alarm clock. The prayers start at 3:45AM and are on and off for almost an hour (that is the snooze button). The call to prayer is my new background noise for my meditation. Could be worse things. I rather like the call to prayer.
Since I started Mind, I've hit every meditation and moved my body everyday except Sunday, which is my self-imposed sleep in day. If I can, I will get an easy form of exercise in on Sunday, but if I don't, I won't beat myself up about it. Other days, I wake at 4:30 AM to ensure that I get the meditation and exercise in before the children wake and the day is gone. This will be my routine through to the end of Mind and beyond. I've hit 12/12 food inputs since the diet started...giving me 100% so far. Big score. I'm working on dropping a few of those pregnancy pounds. I started the program somewhere around 57 kgs. My normal weight is somewhere around 50 kgs, when I'm lean and relatively fit.
How is everyone else doing so far?
Yep, I chose that for my guided meditation today. I am a total woo-woo hippie at heart. I love the idea of auras and chakras and colors surrounding and pervading the body. Complete opposite of how I was raised so I usually just keep my fascination with all these new agey concepts hidden deep down. I definitely don't ever mention it to my father. I don't even want to put a toe into THAT conversation. David Ji was my guide today. Sometimes he's a little too over the top for me, but I absolutely love his voice. I've included a picture of him here.
The meditation itself was a good one. Very simple. Mostly, just using a chakra mantra to open one or multiple chakras of choice. The mantra was the anchor, and I tend to like mantra meditations. But, I've been meditating first thing upon arising and before coffee/exercise, so I find that I focus a lot on the stiffness and pain in my body. Not a comfortable feeling. After coffee and exercise, I feel a little more like I'm floating. I translate that as I need to continue my first thing in the morning meditation. Gives me a chance to work through my dependence on feeling a certain way before I can take my seat. Tired, stiff, in pain...no matter, sit down and do the work. It also helps me understand how important exercise (maybe less so the coffee) is to opening up my body and keeping it functioning well.
- Where are you? Jakarta, Indonesia. Only been here for 1 month after living in southern Africa for 8 years. Quite a culture shock!
- How do you spend your time? Working a full time job and herding three children, 4 months, 2 years and 4 years.
- Why Kenzai Mind? Because I need to find some space in my day for self-care or I am a literal basket-case. Ask my husband. It's been a rough couple of months. Kenzai Mind is as much for my family as it is for me.
- What scares/excites you about this course? That I won't complete it. I need to commit to something and stick with it to get that sense of accomplishment at the end. That's part of the self-care...it mentally bolsters me to cobble together some small successes in the chaos that is my life at this stage.
- What gets you excited and jazzed? 10-20 minutes alone with nothing to do by sit everyday! Woohoo!!!!!! It's the simple things. :) Also, I've hired two amazing helpers, and I was super excited to come back to our temp apartment yesterday to find grilled salmon, mixed veggies and simple pasta with lemon as a garnish for lunch. I mean, just wow!
- Are you facing obstacles to this training cycle? The sleep cycles of my children. Travel for work. Post-partum depression. Moving into a new house...we have moved to Jakarta but are still in temporary housing. We are scheduled to move into our new house on Nov. 17, but my furniture is still on the way from Malawi. I need to furnish it with a minimal amount of furniture and kitchenware as we wait for my shipment to arrive...probably in December. Lots of obstacles but all of them manageable if I just take one step at a time.
I decided to hop in on Mind at the last minute. I did the Beta last year and thought it an appropriate program to ease me back into Kenzai. I just relocated the whole family to Jakarta for my career. I have been a bundle of nerves the past couple of months. Let me sit and try to settle my mind.
Pregnancy update: I am halfway through at the 20 week mark now. We found out that there is a little boy baking in there. Good news! Family complete. I won't feel any pressure from anyone to have another baby...the boy is in the family. Personally, three girls would have made me happy, but oddly or not so oddly, everyone is ecstatic that the baby is a boy. So much celebration. Anyway, I don't want to get too philosophical here. I'm mostly satisfied that I can call it quits on the pregnancy front. Pregnancy is magical and spiritual and all that...but it's also uncomfortable and painful and rough on the body. I'm ready to take back my body and train it up to be back in the best condition possible. Life is so much smoother in a fit, slim, well-trained body.
On that note, I've been doing some food experimentation. I recently listened to Rich Roll's Finding Ultra and was intrigued by his training diet choices, which are mainly vegan. He calls it the Plantpower Way. To be honest, a lot of what he includes in his diet is not available in Malawi. You can't just go to the local health food store and pick up some chia seeds and spirulina. However, you can find a large selection of raw nuts and seeds, cashew, sunflower, sesame, hazelnut, almond, etc. So, I've been playing around with home-made nut milks. I've found that dairy, especially the UHT treated varieties, do not agree with me, and though we've found a person who delivers raw milk that we pasteurize, I still want to reduce dairy in my diet. I sense that I've become slightly lactose intolerant with age.
So far, I've found hazelnut and cashew to be pleasing flavors, especially when blended with a date or two to add sweetness. My budget was a bit tight this past weekend, so I didn't buy almonds. But, I will on the next trip to the store. I'm tempted to try a mix of hazelnut, cashew and almond. I bet that would taste awesome. The only downside is that the nuts are a little more expensive, but perhaps well worth it to help with my lactose digestion issues.
Well, guys, I'm pregnant again. Just into the second trimester. I guess that means no Kenzai for me for another 9 months at least. That's cool. I got my own pre-natal workout thing going...I'm not slacking over here. If there is anything that I want to be fit for, it is birth. In fact, I've actually discovered kettlebells and love them! I'm also busy doing a lot of barre, pilates and yoga work.
I am loosey-goosey on the diet front. As far as I'm concerned, pregnancy is a time to eat what your body craves and if my body craves pizza, by god, I'm going to eat pizza. So, my pregnancy diet goal is to eat what I crave but to focus on portion control and clean eating as often as possible. So, you know, I had scrambled eggs and peas for breakfast with a bowl of corn flakes. The win here is getting my vegetables in for breakfast. The craving is the damn breakfast cereal. I still don't know what it is about breakfast cereal, but I cannot stay away from it when I'm knocked up. Anyway, up 3 kgs already...my doctor was pleased. :)
KMind Graduation GRADUATION POST
Nine years ago, I went on a 10-day Vipassana meditation retreat. It was my first formal instruction in meditation, and it was intense. Silent, 8-10 hours of meditation per day. The silence was enjoyable. I'm a fairly introverted, quiet human anyway. The meditation was excruciating! The first few days was so much pain. Who knew that sitting still could bring up so much pain? But, something happened after those first day, I settled into it. My body became accustomed to the sitting and my mind started to quiet. I found the gap for long stretches of time...for me, the gap felt like vibrations. As if I'd finally slowed down enough to notice the atoms vibrating at a microscopic level in my body...perhaps this is what people call transcendence? I just sorta thought that we are bombarded by so much input everyday and our attention is pulled in so many directions that we are never able to settle down enough to pay attention to those small things. I suspect the "vibrations" are always there. We are just to preoccupied to notice them. I didn't leave that retreat enlightened, but I did leave it understanding that this meditation thing was important for some reason.
I've spent the in between years struggling to keep a consistent practice. Reading books about different flavors of Buddhism. Trying to get to the bottom of why meditation is so beneficial. And, this is my reason for taking this course. Kenzai always has a way of breaking mysterious thing down to bite size chunks. I was certain that it could add something to my experience. It has done two things. One, introduced me to a weasel ball. I much prefer this analogy to that of the monkey mind. For me, a monkey mind brings an image of a thoughts just bouncing around randomly, uncontrolled, which is an apt analogy. But, the weasel ball takes it one step further and highlights how we are affected by these random, uncontrolled thoughts...that they are controlling us and affecting all the people around us.
Just for one second stop and think about it, really hard. The one thoughtless word snapped at a loved one today may reverberate through the rest of time. Perhaps that seems extreme? But, I believe deeply that it is true. That belief has not made me a better person, but sitting still and understanding my thoughts and where they come from and how to better control my reactions to them has helped me to take better actions towards those around me. I still screw up, say thoughtless stuff, act stupidly, but I do it less these days. That is the second thing this course has done for me. It's made me realize that I have indeed made progress. That when a person I've just met asks me, "Are you always this even keeled?" or my co-workers thank me for my calm demeanor, they may be onto something. I don't see myself as even keeled. I still think I am a hot head and that I react too quickly, too often, but others do not see me that way. Nine years of off and on practice have helped, even if just a little.
And, so that's it, meditation is beneficial. It helps. It has the potential to make the world a better place, but it is not what it is hyped up to be. It is work. Hard work. Perhaps enlightenment is something that exists. Who knows? But, the point of meditation is not to reach enlightenment, at least not in my book. The point is to be a better human being in a world that is always in desperate need of better human beings.
Interesting that we should get a sleep lesson today, since I wrote a Kenzai Note for Kenzai Life on Saturday about sleep and it's benefits. I appreciated all the tips on good sleep hygiene, but as you all know too well, those tips are not as effective for parents of small children. Some nights are good, some nights are bad with children. No matter how fantastic your sleep hygiene. I am certain for the last 4 years that I've been operating at sub-optimal levels. :) I like the fact that the lesson acknowledged that getting sleep is not always easy.
My first daughter started sleeping through the night at around 3 years old. My second daughter is 1 now and sleeps okay. She wakes a 2-3 times a night depending on if she's sick or teething. Last night, she coughed and threw up in bed some time in the wee hours of the morning. I cleaned her up. My partner cleaned the bed. She went back to sleep easily...I did not. This is life.
I do have a couple of habits that I keep as a parent that help to maximize sleep that I can add to the sleep hygiene list. First, I sleep when my baby sleeps. We go to bed on average around 8pm. I rarely get back up after going to bed with her. It helps to take advantage of this part of the night as it is the time she sleeps most soundly. Second, we all have a nightly routine that helps the kids wind down for bedtime. I rarely need to fight with them to get into the bed and most of the time, they fall asleep quickly.
I'm not clear on whether the family bed situation helps or hinders my sleep. I prefer the family bed because I don't need to get up to address night time complaints from my baby. But, maybe she'd sleep better if she slept in a separate bed? Some people say so. Anyway, for me, it feels right so I'm sticking with it. My 3 year old is experimenting with her own bed. She has one in our bedroom. Some nights she sleeps in it; some night she sleeps with me. I like the idea of naturally allowing her to choose the time that sleeping on her own is right. She's getting there.
I did the candle meditation yesterday morning. I was up early enough to catch some darkness and quiet. I loved it, mostly because I love looking at fire and candle flames are a pretty cool subset of fire. No cessation of thought chains with this mediation, but I will say that the quality of thought chains was improved. No petty to do lists or worries. I was busy contemplating the flame and its potential, and then paralleling that to a human.
I saw the flame as a calm, controlled version fire. Sorta like a person meditating. Sitting still and flowing with the breeze (thoughts for the human) but not reacting to it. Still, no matter how calm, there is the potential for creativity and destruction in that one tiny flame. I could take that flame, light a fire and cook breakfast, in which case the flame would be contributing to creative forces. I could take that flame and burn down my house (I will NOT do that), thereby contributing to destructive forces. Fire is passionate and unpredictable...sorta like most people most of the time. People have the potential to go either way with their passions....creative, destructive.
Also, I considered how the first humans to control fire must have been in complete and total awe of the power of it. Seriously? How could they not have been? Sure, I can grab a lighter or a match and have a flame going in seconds, but making fire used to be hard work. Or, the potential to start a fire had to be nurtured and carried around, no taking it for granted.
I found all those thought chains to be super fascinating so I just followed them through to see where they'd go. Fun meditation. Back to the normal today.
Hello team! Busy, eventful couple of weeks. I've been meditating daily, exercising many days and eating a pretty healthy relaxed diet. Despite no blog, I've been on the site everyday, reading blogs and following what all the Mind trainees are up to and feeling about the meditation. Mixed bag out there!
The last two weeks, I've been alone with the kids in the evenings, early mornings and Sundays, which is why exercising only happens some days. I've made sure meditation happens everyday, though. Being alone with the kids is not difficult, but it requires 100% attention. I cannot email, answer WhatsApp messages, read a book, exercise, meditate...none of it. They require full attention and after some mentally tough days at work, it is a challenge to be fully alert and kind. Plus, I still have to cook dinner and wash dishes and all the other little tasks required before bedtime. Always on. How do single parents in the US keep their sanity? At least, I've got a nanny who lives on the property, a housekeeper who comes daily...that takes care of all the other housekeeping stuff so that I'm not stressed by a messy house, laundry piling up, etc. Much to be grateful for.
Anyway, my partner should come home next week, and life will resume a normal, slightly more rested pace. Happy meditating out there team.
PS Today's lesson made me laugh. "If you can hang tough in a 15 minute meditation, you'll find a 10 minute line at the post office to be no problem at all." Lines in Africa remind me of Black Friday year round. And, the even more frustrating part about lines in Africa, people don't respect them! ARGH! So, some days I stand in line and laugh at my thought chains, other days I let loose on these jerks who step in front of me without even asking permission.
A quick story. A month or so back I stood in line for 2 hours to get my driver's license printed (after a month of other processes!)....the people printing the licenses would come and go, laugh, not pay attention to the customers. I finally got to the front of the line and get this, those people who had paid extra money (aka bribes) to not stand in line were getting their licenses printed. A stack of papers being processed, while I stood there for 20 minutes and watched with aching feet. I thought to myself, this is Africa. I could get angry and yell and pitch a fit. You know what the people around me would do? Stare at me as if I'd lost my mind and probably smile or possibly laugh. Seriously. I remained calm through it all. Thank you meditation.
Before I moved to Southern Africa, I used to be easily bothered by dogs barking at night or loud events in my neighborhood. Then, I lived in a Zambian village for 2 years. Every night, dogs barked. Try stopping them. Goats rubbed against my house, courted each other and generally made devilish sounding noises. Drunks stumbled through the village preaching at midnight (or anytime of the night). Mistresses fought wives, seriously, this happened. And, on and on. So, dogs barking at night don't bother me anymore.
Next, I moved to an African (Zambia and Malawi) neighborhood. Every Sunday (sometimes as early as 6am), my neighbors (no matter which neighborhood and I've lived in many) decided that God's day is party day. Music, as loud as possible and as long as possible. I've lived in neighborhoods with bars that were 4ish blocks way and when they had weekend night concerts, the music was so loud it sounded like I was actually attending the concert. Loud music no longer phases me.
In Africa, I've learned lots of lessons. LOTS of lessons. This is one of the many. The animals and my neighbors don't give a flying fudge if I am bothered by them. They are busy enjoying their life. Shouldn't you be doing the same?
And so, noise is not a bother when I meditate (unless it is my baby crying because that means I need to respond or ensure someone else is), and life is more peaceful, despite the noise. I think this is why the Buddha suggests that enemies make the greatest teachers.
Side note - I still have not made peace with mosquitoes while I meditate. The thought chain goes something like this, "A mosquito, Uh-oh, I wonder if it's a malaria mosquito, where is it?, did it land?, is it biting me?, kill it!, kill it"
And a PS - True to form. It is Sunday. The neighbors are partying.