Well, I just typed and lost an entire post for the first time so here goes a re-write!
As I noted yesterday, I am feeling under the weather with some sort of respiratory illness. I’m coughing a lot and my voice sounds as though a frog is trapped in my larynx. I selected the teeth and jaw card from my Daily Presence deck, and was shocked to realize these areas of my body are feeling better than they normally do.
I’ve been diagnosed with both TMJ and trigeminal neuralgia. My trigeminal neuralgia has gotten better after having a tooth extracted last year, but a recent visit to the dentist showed me it is still active. She merely manipulated my jaw in her evaluation (no cleaning or dental work) and my pain starting spiking on my drive home.
Today, though, my jaw feels loose and my teeth do not hurt. Simply noticing this feels like a sign that I am living with more awareness. It has been easy for me to focus all of my attention instead on what is going wrong with my body. There are of course times where my pain becomes so severe that I cannot ignore it and during which I need to use additional resources to help myself cope. For me, living with chronic pain has been about learning to work with my body as much as I can.
As I grow to fully inhabit the landscape of my body, my attention has widen and my care for parts that are healthy has improved. This awareness has increased rather than diminished my ability to respond to what my body needs when it is ill. Which parts or body systems are working well for you today? How is your jaw and tooth health? How do you balance responding to your body’s needs alongside appreciating what is working well for it?
It finally feels like the heart of winter where I live, with snow covering the grass and a cold wind blowing. I at first was displeased with having to spend time today snow shoveling, but then decided to take the opportunity to check in with each of my senses in an outdoor setting. My pup accompanied me on my journey.
I started by noticing the temperature. My face was uncovered so it was quite cold, but I soon observed how toasty my hands and upper body felt in my gloves and coat. The sensation of the wind blowing by intrigued me, as it felt as though it was sneaking past my defenses and trying to infiltrate every pore.
The smell was, for once, crisp and clean. Several of my neighbors burn wood for heat, which I hate as the smoke is highly irritating to my lungs and the odor lingers on my clothes after only a brief time outside. They’d given it a rest for once (or perhaps the wind had cleared it away) and I could detect only the scent of the snow.
I forgot to give much attention to what I was hearing, but it was in general quite quiet outside as well. There was a neighbor shoveling in the distance and a dog barked occasionally, seemingly agitated after I’d chopped up the ice on my driveway with my shovel. There were few traffic sounds.
In terms of vision, I felt bored looking at the dead, light-brown grass peeking through the thin layer of snow here and there. I then remembered my flash of insight this fall in regards to including the sky in my observations. I looked up and the most subtle, beautiful set of blues, whites and greys awaited me. The sun was hidden but the sky looked cotton-covered in a soft palette of clouds. I read in the last few months about the Cloud Appreciation Society. I am too lazy to join their ranks but I think they are on to something as I feel so rewarded whenever I remember to look up.
All in all, taking a few moments to connect to the experience of winter, rather than to simply shovel it out of the way, helped me reset my mental state. What is the weather like where you live (thoughts to those in NSW in Australia right now!)? With which sense do you most appreciate colder temperatures? If you practice mindfulness in nature, how does it affect you?
Today’s card invited reflection of how the pace of my life is going. I decided to focus on how I hold my sense of presence and time in situations where others are present. I believe that my experiences here will guide me in finding places where I connect with a felt sense of safety.
I went out to a restaurant with a group of friends last night and noticed a moment pass where I would normally feel like time was “up,” where I’d become impatient and want to leave. After my reflection on having PTSD, I believe this surge of anxiety occurs when, as a result of either internal or external stimuli, I come to view the experience as containing threats from which I want to flee. At dinner, in the moment this would have happened, my internal system instead read “you are safe” and I was enveloped with a wonderful sensation of calm and a near-hallucination of a clock shutting off. What time it was and how much time there was left in the encounter weren’t my most pressing concerns.
In almost every other social setting, I feel as though I am in a race where the goal is to survive until time runs out. Maybe I’m trapped on a level of the simulation or my programming is broken! In all seriousness, the intensity of needing to rush through and have whatever is happening end is overwhelming. I look forward to events much more than I enjoy attending or remembering them.
I do not believe I am able to engage in mindfulness or present-moment awareness in the presence of others for any length of time. As soon as at least one other person is in the same room as me, I lose my connection to my body and my sense of time becomes at least slightly distorted. Every day when I leave my job, I find myself waiting for myself as I leave the building, crawling back into my skin and inhabiting my breath and my rhythm for the first time in hours. Who I am around others is often only a shadow-shell of my true self.
My experience of time is less affected in outdoor spaces, where the elements help me reconnect with my body and remind me of shifts outside of my own reactions to stimuli. If waiting rooms were parks and grocery stores outdoor venues, I would perhaps respond with less rage. Small, confined rooms such as medical offices are especially taxing. I recall a few moments where I felt highly connected to friends; most of them occurred in green spaces with people far and few between.
This reflection has enabled me to note a direct connection between where I am and how intact my perception of time remains. People are not the only variable; fresh air and a luxurious amount of room in which to rest or walk about also play major roles. What factors affect how you perceive time? To what extent is your connection to your body impacted by the presence of other people? In which spaces do you feel safest, where a sense of more than enough time and place are pervasive?
For today’s card draw, I used the In an Open Hand deck I am developing and drew the authenticity card. This card focuses on self-expression which is perfect for this moment in my life as I recently took a big step legally in relation to being trans and changed my name. The process itself was extremely stressful and took much longer than anticipated. Because of this, I haven’t felt much cause for celebration or “newness” of self as of yet, but I anticipate an internal shift will arrive.
One of the prompts that comes with the authenticity card invites a reflection on what it means to move across the boundary of self. Someone I know was diagnosed this month with a terminal illness, which brought up a lot of internal reactions for me as to the finite nature of each of our lives. I was surprised to find myself having an intensely spiritually-centered response in that I view death as a sacred transition, just as transitioning in terms of embracing my gender has a sacred quality to it for me.
As I experience them, both changes are embodied; they cannot be separated from the physical states to which they correspond (other people may of course transition in terms of gender without making physical changes). Life experiences that are wholly embodied are, then, an opportunity for knowing that cannot be taught. There is another side to which we are moving that is undefined and which we have not known consciously but yet which we know in our bones. Having traversed new waters, we are never the same.
As I connect these concepts, I wonder if part of the reason I get so frustrated with those who misgender me again and again is the fact that their actions belie their stilted grief for who I was and their state of denial of the movement I’ve undertaken as a person. What does it mean, perhaps, for their sense of their gender if someone else can “leave” or “change” what they believed to be permanent? What if the lands we declare our own are themselves constantly shifting? What if we box ourselves in so that our true voice is hushed?
In the same line, I observed others who got news of the terminal illness diagnosis shut down and seem stalled out by it, likely because they hold tightly to an idea of how things “should” happen, whereas I found myself filling with a sense of expansiveness as to, if there is no other path but the one unfolding, what do we make of ourselves and the situation? (I fully acknowledge that I could be engaging in spiritual bypass and would never bring these reflections to the person who got diagnosed unless she went there first). I am stressed by decision-making–the pulling up of the anchor–moreso than the arrival on new shores. I want to know in my body what it is to be human; these being-in-body journeys depart at different times and to different locations for each of us, but the living-with instead of in-spite-of or in-denial-of is where I want to be. What is an embodied experience in your life? How did it shape your spiritually? What do you know of life that you didn’t know before?