Meditation You’ll Actually Do

All the bad things happen in the mind and yet most people live in the mind - Garry Handling

Are you one of those people who adds “start meditating” to their resolutions every January only to wake up, sit up straight in a corner and fall back asleep three mornings in a row before deciding maybe you don’t need to sit petrified in drool first thing in the morning?

Now, I’m not knocking a consistent morning meditation practice, it’s a delight, but I’m not doing it. I’ve heard the best exercise is the exercise you’ll actually do, and I suspect the same goes for meditation. So, if you’re anything like me and just don’t have the time to carve 20 minutes out of a morning that already includes exercising, showering, fast-breaking, lunch packing and commuting to approach a stress-reducing practice in the most anal way possible, stay with me.

If you are one of those shiny self-care revolutionaries, don’t mess with it, it’s working. You may not know it’s working, but the bus driver who no longer has to hear you huffing and puffing about the inflated cost of transit knows it. For the rest of us, I assure you, it’s possible to approach meditation without having to grow dreadlocks, add “love + light” to your email signature or develop a penchant for the dung-like residue of patchouli.

Don’t worry about full blown disciplined meditation just yet; start by simply paying attention.

Take out some input.

Our lives are filled with interstices. Culturally, we’ve been jamming every junction, interval and transition with constant input. Whether we’re face planting into our phones to scour media feeds, cramming tiny speakers into our ears to drown out the jerks who really need to meditate, watching movies, reading books, listening to podcasts, etc, the perpetual  information stream weaves in and out of each and every moment. It’s hyper reverberation is anxiety inducing. We literally have a screen for every occasion. What justification do we have for a single person owning a phone, tablet, laptop and television if it isn’t to stuff all the seconds until we die?

If you never halt input, there is no room for output. Creativity needs sunlight and air to germinate ideas. Next time you take a walk, slice a tomato or suds up your butthole, unplug and notice what’s floating around up there. Mindfulness isn’t about not thinking; it’s about noticing what thoughts have become so habituated that your mind has started to perceive them as reality (and that’s the twisted part; your reality IS shaped by the thoughts you allow to take center stage).

  • Are you washing your dishes with the fab 5?
  • Can you take a shower without a soundtrack?
  • Is your cell phone a necessary accomplice to a good poop?
  • Has candy crush crushed your soul?
  • Have you ever walked into a sign?
  • Are you afraid to look the CVS clerk in the eyes?
  • Can you taste your dinner when it’s accessory to HBO’s Sunday lineup?
  • Is your phone a digital Xanax you reach for any time there’s a .5 second lull in conversation?

“I don’t have time to meditate” is not a valid statement. We all walk from point A to point B. We all do menial tasks and wipe our asses. There is time, we’re just filling it with base pleasures.

Embrace your boredom. It’s the seat of innovation; Ingenuity doesn’t follow comfort. Find interstices, don’t fill them. You’re an adult damnit, not a child moaning “are we there yet?” in the back seat. You are the driver and there is no “there.” It’s here and now, and you’re missing it.

Madly Deeply,

Embodied Will

If you dug this, please share! What would you add to the list?

Depression as Suppression

Untitled design-5

You were not born depressed. You are not a depressed person. You experience depression, at least in part, because you are willingly or unknowingly suppressing defining aspects of self.

I can’t definitively claim that it’s as simple as all that, but I like to reframe depression as suppression for a few reasons:

  • It implies agency. Only YOU can suppress your identity. Other factors may be oppressive, but how you respond to those forces is undefined (when, of course, you choose to live willfully rather than subordinating to subconscious operating systems).
  • It highlights latent gifts over present failure; where there is suppression, there is something to be released.
  • It divorces you from identification with a wholly combatable condition. It is your own mind that created depression and it is your own mind that will dig you out. If you don’t believe me, just look up a few studies that compare antidepressants and placebos – the effects are virtually indistinguishable.

It’s really easy to say all that. Whenever someone implied to me that depression was self inflicted, I concluded that they were confused about the difference between clinical depression and temporary sadness. You may be thinking the same about me. My husband, a tear-soaked comforter and a heap of chocolate wrappers can testify that that is not the case.

Let’s go back to #1. What motivational speakers like to leave out is how far modern society has removed us from biological imperatives. We are ALL oppressed (to varying degrees, I mean no disrespect). My point, is that richer countries always have higher depression rates and the newest iGen are by far the most miserable yet. Instead of roaming a globe of lush diversity, we assign ourselves to concrete cubicles on a land scarred by pavement. Every day that we push the boundaries of our synthetic zoo we further alienate ourselves from the hand that feeds us. Insomnia doesn’t exist without electricity. Cavities are unlikely without processed food. Cancer doesn’t proliferate in symbiosis with nature.

Now, I don’t intend to instigate a philosophical discussion about the appropriate path for the future of [wo]man (apocalypse, perhaps?). I’m also not implying that I’m against progress or technology; my luddite blood is thinning more and more these days – but I can’t ignore that our humanity has been suppressed since birth.

I’d like to advocate that, instead of getting incredibly pissed off about being born into a dystopia of convenient decay, we should focus on the truth that follows: there’s nothing wrong with you. Of course you’re unhappy! This life is so, so twisted.

So, until the day mother nature’s violent retaliation ripples across the globe and flicks us all into oblivion like ants from a picnic blanket, let’s forgive ourselves for the oppression we never asked for and take responsibility for the suppression we perpetuate.

This sounds quite dismal, yes, but I’m asking you to look at the other side. There’s always another perspective, and no politician, no priest, no Google ad or celebrity tweet can force you to hang the picture upside down.

There is nothing wrong with you. You are beautiful and everything you need to thrive within this effed up world is self contained.

This really was uplifting, I swear.

XO-H

Repair Your Damaged Programming

Here’s a lil’ in-between post – My interview on the revolution oils podcast went live today!

We talked about…

  • The myriad health habits that can help pry you out of depression
  • The oils that support mood, energy and motivation
  • How aromas affect the limbic lobe of the brain
  • The exciting implications of neuroplasticity and myelination on mental health
  • How essential oils can act as a compass on the road to wellness

 //html5-player.libsyn.com/embed/episode/id/6536303/height/90/theme/custom/autoplay/no/autonext/no/thumbnail/yes/preload/no/no_addthis/no/direction/backward/render-playlist/no/custom-color/008783/

Essential Oils Won’t Fix You

Untitled design

Hey guys, I figured it all out! You can keep living whatever destructive lifestyle you’ve adopted, all you have to do is start using essential oils, these magical elvish molecules that dance around your insides and tidy it all up. Why quit a bad habit when some smelly smells can negate the consequences? Why opt for progress when you can skip along slovenly street linked around the arm of your favorite essential oil?

I’m kidding. Please tell me you knew I was kidding?

I love my oils. No joke, I use them everyday for everything and I would love to gush about what a miracle they’ve been (and I will,) but I had to get that out of the way. Essential oils are potent and powerful, but they are not a panacea, and it bothers me when people talk about them that way, because it leads those who could really benefit to believe they’re snake oil.

I’m not going to use this space to convince you otherwise, to explain what oils are or the science of why they work (if education is what you seek, check out my other site). I just want to tell you my story.

If you know me, or you’ve been following this blog, you’re aware that I’ve contended with depression throughout my life, and I’ve gone down many lanes to mitigate sadness. From allopathic to homeopathic, nothing lifted the weight of existence without also adding some new elusive element, or carving out too much of me. I sought psychiatrists with pen in hand, eager to prescribe a cocktail of pilferous pellets with ambiguous effects. I sought psychologists, who couldn’t understand that I’ve already spent too much time sifting through the pain of my past, and that I was finally ready to move forward.

It became clear to me that I was done. I was on an antidepressant called pristiq at the time, which I had been taking for 6 months. I want to be clear, I don’t regret turning to that approach; at the time, I needed it to survive, and I don’t judge anyone who prefers that resolution.

Realizing that I was fed up inhabiting an almost-me existence, I decided to continue using the meds as a temporary bridge while I set up some support beams. I began devouring material about integrative health, functional nutrition, movement science and neuroplasticity. I took self help to the nerdiest extreme. I read everything I could get hands on (which is all the things, thanks to the internet) and then I applied it. When I felt secure in my new habits, I weaned off the hormone disrupting, mineral depleting, zombifying glorified placebo. And here I am, trucking along and writing about it, too.

So what does any of this have to do with essential oils? Well, figuring out what you need to do is the easy part. Getting yourself to actually do those things is nearly impossible when you’re depressed. Enter oils. When I was at my worst, I couldn’t even get out of bed, nevermind get myself to the gym. Instead of salad, kettlebell swings and gratitude I was turning to Gilmore Girls, Grubhub and a vibrator. Granted, those last three things are all pretty good, but not necessarily while weeping. Context is key.

I told you I wasn’t going to get into the science of oils, but I want to share one teeny tidbit: use of scents is one of the only ways to reach the limbic system of the brain, which controls heart rate, blood pressure, and mood, among other things. Inhaling the right scent alters my emotions faster than a joint melts me into nervous self-consciousness. True, it’s what I choose to do with that kick-start that counts most, but I’ll take the kick-start every time.

I have an oil to get me out of bed and start the coffee, an oil to help focus and get writing, an oil that makes me want to move my body, an oil to curb my appetite for nachos between meals, an oil to calm my nerves and an oil that makes me smile instantly.

I don’t know about you, but I’ll take all the help I can get.

Love, love, love,

H-face

P.S. If you want to hear me geek out about oils with Samantha Lee Wright, look out for me on her podcast, The Essential Oil Revolution this coming Tuesday!

Type A Tickle

The other night, Justin and I took a walk to our community basketball court and shot hoops together. Now, if you don’t know my husband, that white man can jump, and the closest I’ve come to athleticism is being pantsed during HS field hockey practice (we didn’t win a single game in the 4 years I played). That, and college beer pong.

So, needless to say, I was resistant when he insisted that we finish each round of “around the world” with a layup. But you know what happened?

It was HILARIOUS.

Not to him, just to me. I could not stop laughing. There is something so utterly joyful about being completely terrible at something and just not caring at all.

A similar thing happens to me when I try to bench press more than 50 lbs or when I go bowling (my average is about 65.) That night, hurling that goosebumpy ball at a metal rim without any attachment to the outcome, it hit me: if I can’t loosen the fuck up about things I care about, I have to start doing things I don’t care about!

I call it the type A tickle. Are you constantly in your head? Assessing, evaluating, extracting and abstracting? Insert happiness injection: develop a hobby that means nothing to you, preferably something physical. When’s the last time you laughed at yourself? And I mean genuine, spontaneous, gut giggles unwilled by your conscious protector – not those nervous laughs that imply “you can’t laugh at me, because I did it first!”

Manifesting presence outside the stage of disciplined meditation can unlock an improvisational high that makes even the dullest features of life more appealing – and the joy of sheer ineptitude snaps you effortlessly into presence. Because you have no attachment to advancement or success, you’re able to be exactly where you are without judgement. Some might call laughter judgement, but it didn’t feel that way to me. It was more of a release, a severing from the idea that I should get the ball in the hoop and an appreciation of the absurdity that I can’t mainstream that mien.

One of my biggest hurdles with trying to integrate some eastern philosophies is figuring out how to care without caring. If suffering is born of expectation, then how is it possible to set healthy goals? Certainly my particular brand of suffering is exacerbated by the contrast of my extreme highs and lows, but a life without appreciation of duality doesn’t seem worth living, either.

I’m not saying I have an advanced grasp of these philosophies or even that my stream of thought is coherent – but what I am saying, is that until I’m able to live with the contradiction gracefully, I’m happy to compartmentalize. I’ll plan my future being of this world, and when I want to be in it, I’ll hurl sports balls at sports nets.

XO-H

Dear Depression

 

I’ve done a lot of corny things in the name of mental health. This is one of my faves; it’s just as satisfying as it is utterly silly. Go ahead, write yourself a break up letter to depression. Here’s mine:

Dear Depression,

You’re my oldest friend. From my earliest memories to recent mental records, I can recall your numbing permeation of my organs; your denial of my mindscape’s yearning to occupy a room larger than the current room. You were there for me when I thought I might be the exception to warn me that I was the rule. You were the warm weighted blanket when all I could do was stare into space. You were there to ground me when I stumbled into pockets of ecstacy. You were a key essence in the scent of my soul and I could always settle comfortably in your musky base note. Your potency piqued my attention in childhood, blended into my being through adolescence and coalesced as a feature of my identity in adulthood. You made it okay not to get up, not to try, not to fail. You made watching movies about people doing things better than actually doing things. You made ice cream taste so good.

I thank you for your service. I commend you for your persistence. Without the consuming scope of our affair, I would not have decided to kick ass. Without your bewitching whisper daring me to learn the beauty of the color beneath my skin, I wouldn’t have needed to wake up. If you hadn’t taken the wheel, I might not have had the time to stare out the window, watching one moment blur into the next. Without your monochrome brush I might not have noticed the brilliant orange butterfly, which has decidedly tugged on the corners of my mouth.

I don’t need you anymore, so fuck off. We’re over and makeup sex is off the table. No longer will you obscure my talents. No longer will you instill fear of action. No longer will you fix the ceiling of joy. I cannot unsee the butterflies; I cannot forget the power of my will.

I am interesting without you. I am intelligent without you. I am complex and free from your reign. I am more powerful than you could ever be, because I created you. You are no longer embedded into my personality. You will come knocking and I will be rocking out to the sweet subtle sounds of the present moment. You will come pleading, placating, justifying, beguiling, mediating. My answer will be the same.

Fuck off.

Yours truly,

Harriet Grace  

Talking about depression is taboo in this culture. We take a pill so as not to burden our neighbor, without stopping to think that our neighbor could also be depressed. Consider me your neighbor and be a burden. If the ubiquity of depression is never revealed, we’ll never amass the energy to abate it’s influence on the collective consciousness.

It’s taken me many years, books and podcasts for the message I have always intellectually understood, but never actually felt, to settle into my bones: depression is a choice. It’s the easier choice for many, and it would be especially easy to dismiss my point of view as mere magical thinking. Allow me to retort: thinking is magical, and magic is not mere.

Share this message if you have ever been, or known, a person with depression.

I love you all,

Harriet

Health Isn’t Hell

 

img_1508

Alright friends, health is simple, here are the rules:

  • Never eat sugar. We thought a morsel here and there was okay, but it turns out nutrigenomics is in, moderation is out. Even one doughnut could kill you, so better not risk it.
  • Eat so much fiber and vegetables that you literally never stop shitting. Seriously, if you don’t plan your day around the availability of toilets, you’re not doing it right
  • Stop sitting, but also don’t just stand all the time. Pimp out your work space like an oversized hamster gym (but make sure the plastic tubes are pthalate free).
  • Drink such an unreasonable amount of water that you actually have to devise a system to remember this formerly intuitive life-sustaining need.
  • Never eat out or order in. Even a salad is covered in oxidized fats that will kill you.
  • Wake up at 6 a.m. and be asleep by 10. If you don’t sync back up with your circadian rhythm, your hormones will conspire to kill you.
  • You may be be wondering what exactly gluten is. Allow me to clarify: Gluten is a type of satanic particle that permeates everything that tastes good and opens up the gates of your guts to evil villains that persuade your immune system to attack itself.
  • Change all your lights in your house after 7 p.m. to these amber bulbs that make your house look like a 70s-era coke den, but just to be safe, also wear these bug eyed blue blocker glasses to make sure your partner will never have sex with you again.
  • Good news: coffee is good! Wait, no, it’s bad. Actually it’s good, it’s good, it’s good. Well, unless you have a bladder or a nervous system. But mostly good.
  • Oh, and beer is gluten, wine is sugar, yata yata, fun is out.

So, this list is clearly ridiculous, but I actually lived this way for a while. My skin was glowing, my energy was boundless, my BM’s were these perfectly sculpted trophies that slid right out like clockwork, and I was DEPRESSED AF.

So, what’s the takeaway? If you’re invested in improving your health, do your research and maybe even heed this list, but take it down a few notches. I continue to stand behind the science that informed each of these items. For example, the WGA present in gluten really does compromise the tight junctions of your intestinal wall (which is only a single cell thick), allowing entry to pathogenic bacteria that can confuse chemical messages via molecular mimicry and block hormone receptor sites, leading to a landslide of health complications.  And that’s true whether you’re celiac or not.

But never having a beer again can also kill you.

I was living this way, carefully calculating every decision, weighing the consequences of every opportunity, fueled by the knowledge that movement and nutrition could go a long way in mitigating my sadness. But what did I get out of my efforts? A crippling case of orthorexia, a fear of EMF’s (so, everything everywhere), chondromalacia patella from overzealous CrossFit participation in Gumby’s body and a wicked case of insomnia brought on by a fear of not getting enough sleep. Oh, and I never saw my friends.

And there my husband was, having a brower and making up shampoo jingles. 

Good nutrition may be medicine for your body, but stress is a cancer to your mind. And I believe the mind is more powerful than a doughnut.

Love always,

Embodied Will

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done in the name of health?

*disclaimer: some of my word choices are purely for comedic or poetic impact. I fully respect that there are certain items that truly do belong on a “never” list for certain people. Gluten really is on my never list because it triggers depressive thoughts. I also have family members who really shouldn’t ever have a beer. Please do not use this post to justify damaging patterns; know what’s on your never list and respect that.