Monday, December 29, 2014


As I’ve learned more about meditation and some basic principles of Buddhism, I have realized that I’m very addicted to telling myself stories about myself.

What I do is I have conversations, in my head, with people. The people are real, usually people from my past, but the conversations are just in my head. And the conversations aren’t really conversations. They are me lecturing the other person, or explaining something about myself or about how I view the world. This is my way, I believe, of defining myself, to myself. Often the mind-conversations are confrontations. Often I am angry in these conversations. My current theory is that because I so loathe and avoid confrontation in real life, I need to set my boundaries to myself, in my own head, to distinguish and define and maybe even understand myself.

But I’ve realized that these story-telling conversations are constant. If my attention is not otherwise engaged—in reading, watching or listening to something, actually conversing with a real live person, making music, etc—I am 100% likely to be having one of these conversations.

Last night was a very angry one. We live in an apartment complex and our unit is right next to the laundry room. On the laundry room door it is posted that residents are not to do laundry after 10pm. This is because the dryers are really noisy, and the motion-sensored light right outside the door goes on and off right into ours and a few other resident’s windows when people are going back and forth. It’s very disruptive to sleep. This hasn’t been a problem for most of the 3 years that we have lived here. But recently someone moved in who completely disregards the rule, and two or three times now has kept us awake quite late with their laundry-activities.

This completely enrages me. Blind rage. But remember—I hate confrontation. So my go-to response is to have horrible angry conversations with the perpetrator in my head. I obsess over things I’m going to do to this person, and enact these things in my head, alongside my angry conversations. It’s late, though, and I’m in my PJs, and it’s cold outside and I don’t really want to have to go out there to actually deal with it. Furthermore, I would have to wait until the person walks by between loads to catch them, and that requires constant attention at my window for as much as 45 minutes or something. And I’m much too distracted by my blind rage to do something like that.

Last night, since I knew I wasn’t going to go out and do something about it, and since I’ve had some Buddhist meditation principles rolling around in my head, I laid back and tried an experiment with my angry story-telling. I experimented with letting go of the story. This wasn’t intentional, but as I imagined letting go, I imagined the anger rising off my body, of its own accord, like steam after a hot bath.

I immediately experienced peace. It wasn’t peace combatting my anger, it was the peace that was always there under the story. It was absence. Absence was quite peaceful.

In that space it occurred to me that part of my holding on to the angry story was a duty.

In the past when I’ve thought about anger, I’ve mostly experienced it as an entitlement. I learned early on in therapy that anger could be really important and useful, especially for getting out of abusive relationships or situations and moving forward. I grasped that idea for years. And I still think it’s true. Thus for many years, even when I’ve known that it was time to let go of anger, I imagined that it was a sense of entitlement that kept me holding onto it. Almost like a guilty pleasure. I should probably stop eating this chocolate, and I should probably let go of this anger, but I DON’T WANT TO BECAUSE IT FEELS SOOO GOOD.

But last night when I let go of the anger, and it dissipated and vanished in the space above my body, I realized that I had also felt a duty to hold onto that anger. I have no idea where that duty came from, but... 

No. No, I take that back. As a very good little Mormon girl, I grew up experiencing most things as duty. If a certain activity could be considered a good thing to do, my dutiful little mind turned it into a duty. I think this was a big part of my descent into major depression on my mission. At any rate, last night, it felt MUCH better to let go of the anger-duty. Much better.

I suppose anger is just an emotion. It’s a murky, smoky, gaseous substance that can propel us forward, and can cloud our clear vision. It can be useful and it can be distracting and it can be destructive, but it’s just an emotion. And it’s ok to let it go.


Monday, June 16, 2014

Some Ideas about Humans

I need to write something about us and them. Us-and-them-ness. This syndrome, so prominent in Mormonism, and brought to light this week by the very Mormon boundary-maintenance habit of excommunication.

So anyway, two ideas:

1. I think a lot about what a good life is. Almost invariably, for me, a good life is centered around helping others. Growing up, that has always meant other people. It was hard for me to grant the same importance to helping a homeless dog, for instance, as to helping a homeless man or woman. Why is that, I wonder? It might just be a function of my very intense religious upbringing--the fervor of my belief, growing up, in the importance of being Christlike. But I also wonder if it has something to do with a baser element, a very simple, very deep, totally unacknowledged instance of us vs. them. So deep, it's probably written in my DNA. Explained by evolution--the tendency of a species to propagate itself, at the expense of other species. Simple competition. My first excuse is always to go straight to the idea of consciousness--sentience. People are higher on the scale of importance because we feel things more deeply--we have greater sense of awareness-self-awareness as well as awareness of others. But current research on the sophistication of bee communication, ...and other stuff... tends to lead to a different conclusion. Furthermore, granting the helping of other species--even plant, fungi, insect species--the same level of importance as helping people can be attributed to a similar kind of biological self-preservation. It seems, more and more, that science is pointing to the insight John Muir had when he said;

"When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe."

It does, however, seem to require an awareness beyond that which most of the human race seems capable. Or at least the fox-news-watching portion of the human race.

2. Ok, second idea, related to the first. That our sky-rocketing human population requires, most likely, a constant re-thinking of the traditional us vs. them. Because the actual physical fact is that we are constantly bumping up against each other much more than we have in millenia past. Centuries past. Hell, even decades past. 7.2 billion people is a fuck-ton of people, is all I'm saying. The booming population, and the physical requirements thereof, in terms of living arrangements, feeding arrangements, transportation, communication, etc., means that each individual human is much more aware of diversity. At least, in the modernized world. We are much more aware that a particular set of human beings was perhaps taught from birth that their religious world-view is the only true religion, and despite having been taught that very thing ourselves, we do need to respect them as people, and try as hard as we can not to commit genocide against them, like we did several centuries ago, because, well, we've acknowledged that that was perhaps not our finest hour. In fact, this much diversity awareness may even result in a large number of us humans concluding that one miniscule little worldview trying to vaunt itself up to exclusive truth claims might be a bad idea, because of the way so many other humans despise and ridicule us on that count...

I mean, ultimately, that rigid, violent boundary maintenance, of the sort the Mormon church seems hell-bent on carrying out, might be a tad out-dated. That's all I'm saying.