Not A Pretty Girl

Inspired by an Ani Difranco song that I’ve refashioned and have been playing & singing lately on the guitar, here are some of the ways my “I am not a pretty girl, that is not what I do” expresses itself:

I wear the same basic outfit every day: brown pants/green shirt; my idea of hair care involves washing it 2-3 times a week (no cutting, styling, dying, or whatever else-ing most women tend to do); I wouldn’t know how to apply makeup even if I had it; the few pieces of jewelry I own were given to me by well-intentioned people who don’t know me well enough to know I will never wear it; when I’m in a bar to hear music, I’m the girl armed with a pocket notebook and pen jotting down observational notes; I own 3 pairs of shoes: crocs, snow boots, and motorcycle boots; I’m not interested in mirroring my moves on the dance floor so as to best maintain the reflection of a sex-object; and I am not beholden to self-validation and worth (as I was when I was young) through the ability to attract a guy (or 2 or 3 or 12) – I reserve that dignity to be procured from my own well of self.

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On Solitude

Pic taken during my one-week solo stay at the Mission Lookout Tower, May 2018

 

There are at least two kinds of solitude: one we experience when we are by ourselves alone and the other we can experience when we are in the midst of others.

There is a kind of solitude, which is spoken to in the sutra on Knowing the Better Way to Live Alone, that can be carried within us wherever we go. It involves an ability to live in the present moment, free of worry, stress, anxiety, craving, and attachment.

Just because we may live alone doesn’t mean we know how to be alone. And just because we have house mates doesn’t mean we can’t cultivate the art of solitude.

It’s good to mention too, that there is a solitude born from isolation and separation and a solitude born from a deep sense of interbeing and re-connection with one self – and they are not at all the same thing. Using the Eightfold Path as a guide, we could say there is Solitude and then there is Right Solitude.

Additionally, solitude as a power or virtue is all of the following: drastically undervalued, super misunderstood, and detrimentally romanticized.

Ah, the inner stirrings of a writer on solitude.

On Sexual Energy, part 2

In the Third Mindfulness Training on True Love, the words sexual misconduct are used. When it comes to working with our sexual energy and/or considering alternate ways to date and be sexually active without true love and a deep, long-term commitment made known to my family and friends, it’s important to unpack what sexual misconduct means. From my point of view, while the training warns against us engaging in sexual relations without being in a mutually committed and love-filled relationship, I think there are ways that it can be done – though I also think it’s far more likely that more harm than good will be done, as most people aren’t on the same page when they enter into a sexual relationship and much flies under the radar and goes unspoken.

 

On dictionary.com, misconduct is defined as: improper conduct; wrong behavior. Well that doesn’t help very much does it? As soon as I read that definition, I thought: Improper by whose standards? and Wrong by whose moral compass? These are very relative and subjective words. When I looked up the word improper, I scrolled down the page and found this sentence:

Improper has a wide range (of synonyms), being applied to whatever is not suitable or fitting, and often specifically to what does not conform to the standards of conventional morality.

So, let’s say we define misconduct as an act which does not conform to the standards of conventional morality. It’s a little more to go off of but I’m thinking this still doesn’t help us very much.

Perhaps it would behoove us to simply come up with our own individual working definition of what misconduct means instead. I think this could be a good place to start for those of us who are interested in delving into this subject more in our own daily lives, as mindfulness practitioners. I think the chances are good that we’ve all had experiences that have shown us what doesn’t work for us on our end. If we were to put some intentional time into coming up with a list of actions that we ourselves consider to be sexual misconduct, it might start angling us in the direction of thinking, speaking, and acting with more awareness and skillfulness, as we’ve moved a critical component of working with sexual energy from the subconscious to the conscious mind. Recognition is always the first – and in my opinion the most important – step in transformation.

As a married woman, I might define sexual misconduct as any act that I feel the need to either hide, keep secret, or lie about to my husband. If I were single, perhaps I would define sexual misconduct as any act motivated by desire-filled impulsivity or a heightened sense of grasping. And if I were someone who was both single and drank alcohol, I would further include that any sexual act fueled by alcohol constituted as sexual misconduct as well.

I see the wisdom of enfolding the energy of True Love into the realm of working with sexual energy. If we solely used the guidepost of True Love to dictate our usage of sexual energy and actions in regards to having sex, we would save ourselves and others from a lot of heartache and hardship. But in being acquainted with a lot of folks on the single-scene and seeing how difficult it is to find True Love, I do think it’s worth investigating other ways to work with this Mindfulness Training that might be more fitting to one’s current reality. I think it’s important that we not get stuck in extremes when it comes to anything.

If we’re single and having a hard time meeting someone we feel compatible with and we’re also experiencing the effects of our sex drives amping up – or we’re in a committed relationship and our partner’s sex drive is currently in low-gear and ours is on high, which is a thing that happens – how do we practice learning appropriate ways to take care of my sexual energy, as the Third Mindfulness training says?

Seeing that body and mind are one, I am committed to learning appropriate ways to take care of my sexual energy and cultivating loving kindness, compassion, joy and inclusiveness – which are the four basic elements of true love – for my greater happiness and the greater happiness of others.

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Books

This morning, in an effort to whittle the pile down, I took one book off of the growing stack perched above my side of the bed, with the intention of returning it to the library from whence it came.

14 books remain, which is a number high enough to make anyone ponder my intentions for being able to make my way through them all.

In the mix sits the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, The Dharma of the Princess Bride, and two books by Bill Bryson.

Sometimes when I’m laying underneath the shelf that supports their hulking weight, I imagine being suddenly visited by them all, when the dark-stained rectangle of pine makes the well-timed, conscious decision to give up its thankless role as propper-upper of things and heaves them all off with one push of breath onto my head, chest, and stomach.

The book I am most actively reading, however, sits on the coffee table in the living room.

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Balance

Practice to let your feelings be as they are,

verses fighting or suppressing them –

but practice also not to let them run the show.

Balance.

 

Practice to stay in touch with the woes and ills on the global front,

verses averting your eyes and ears and heart –

but practice also to stay in touch with the joys, beauty, and goodness that abound.

Balance.

 

Practice to care well for yourself,

verses losing yourself in dispersion –

but practice also to extend outwards to others.

To loved ones and the underprivileged alike.

Balance.

 

 

Observations On the Road

In lieu of a New Year’s Resolution, I’ve been coming up with a new mindfulness practice for myself at the start of each calendar year. Last year I partook in what I called Bumper Sticker Practice, where I paid special attention to bumper stickers while driving around town and jotted down the ones I found particularly interesting/funny/odd/strange/beguiling. I so enjoyed having a mindfulness exercise to do while driving that I decided that my new practice for this year would also involve something I could do while on the road. Even though I wasn’t quite sure what it would entail, I landed on: Observations On the Road. It involves my jotting down either an outer observation, or an inner observation prompted by something I see directly around me, while either driving around town, stopped at a red light, or otherwise hanging out in my car for some reason (such as waiting to pick my stepson up from school or waiting in line at the drive-up teller at the bank).

Last year, with the Bumper Sticker Practice, I wrote a blog post in June, documenting the stickers I’d come across in the first half of the year. Now I’m back to do the same with this one!

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