Non-wimpy sensitives, and how to be one.

I recently confronted someone and was accused of being sensitive. I denied it a little too vehemently and then pointed out that that’s a shitty thing to call someone who’s trying express that you’ve upset them. I felt like they were saying my feelings and perspective were irrelevant, due to this “sensitivity”.

This upset me due to valuing this relationship greatly, but it also upset me because having developed a much thicker skin is something that I’m proud of. I was 16 the day I decided to stop making excuses and to own my shit. A coach called me the weakest link, I cried and explained (excused), and she called me out right there in front of everyone.

I did listen that day, but I was 16. And not a super mature 16 either.

Luckily when we don’t get the message, life tends to repeat the lesson. Over the years life just kept teaching me how to not take things so personally. I went to college and majored in fine art, where each piece was evaluated by a large group critique that you have to just listen to and be chill with. That was a learning experience, to say the least…

I’ve been in marketing for the last decade, a field where people really aren’t afraid to tell it like it is. I’m a writer, (now) happy to deal with critiques from editors because that means I’m being published. I temped for a couple years, which is repeatedly starting from scratch and constantly being the new person. (Always learning. Always fucking up because you’re learning.)

For the most part, I’ve learned to take a critique effectively and I’m down with constructive criticism––which just looks like good advice when done with style.

But I am (a) sensitive.

This topic is one of those that kinda have two meanings, there’s a science-based official definition; and there’s new-agey definition that’s not at all official but is used all over, it’s part of the culture’s vernacular.

The official definition: sensory processing sensitivity (SPS), a personality trait, a high measure of which defines a highly sensitive person (HSP), has been described as having hypersensitivity to external stimuli, a greater depth of cognitive processing, and high emotional reactivity. But in the world of woo it also involves empath traits, basically being very sensitive to others’ energy and having great intuition.

Sensitives feel extremely deeply, both the good stuff and the bad stuff. We care. Immensely. Doing all of this takes a lot of energy. I’m learning to prioritize, to accept that spreading myself all over and being weaksauce with my boundaries makes me feel like poo. We’re highly affected by others. Though shielding helps worlds, I’ve learned that I’m happiest when I’m with people who make me feel understood.

Crowds can be miserable-making. Before shielding, I couldn’t go anywhere crowded without feeling like I might have a panic attack. My hands would get all sweaty, and I would feel like I was getting pulled a million directions at once, and I would then find the bar as fast as possible, haha. Watching violence is unpleasant for sensitives. Recharging is very necessary. (Sensitivity shares a lot of traits with introversion.)

Sensitives can be easily charmed. When we aren’t centered in ourselves, we tend to follow around people who are. (Dating in my 20’s, wheeeeeew!) Since we can strongly sense the energy of the person whose comfortable in their skin––it’s comforting. Especially when you don’t know about this stuff and have no clue it’s not yours.

Then they leave, taking their self-assured juju home with them, and the sensitive is left with their unprocessed emotions because they’ve been wandering around in someone else’s shit all day. Sheild up, friends!

Like many sensitives, I’m not super great at dealing with negative emotions. I spend the vast majority of my time being pretty darn happy-go-lucky, feeling all sparkly, and when negative emos come in I’m like, WTF am I supposed to do with you?! Bleeeerrrrrrg. I’m still pretty easily triggered, but I’m also dealing with a super not-fun homebound health sitch, so of course. (Learning opportunities, eh? I bet it will make it seem much easier once I’m better.)

A couple strategies for sensitives: I’m getting better at handling feeling pissed off, or frustrated, or slighted––due to a common lil’ strategy in the world of woo: if the emos are due to an interaction with someone else, or I’m in public, I take a minute and ask myself, “What am I afraid of?”, then “What would be so bad about that?”

If you ask yourself these questions, moving to the core of the issue, whilst focusing on your breath––you’ll probably find that the thing you’re afraid of really isn’t so horrible and find yourself much calmer. (And more rational.)

However, if you find yourself alone when the neg emos creep in, then I recommend leaning in. Process that shit. (If you feel ready, of course. If you’re dealing with serious trauma seek a pro.) Grab some tissues and feel those feels, find the still center of your inner tornado, let the emotions come up, and watch your thoughts with as much detachment as you can muster.

Emotions are a spectrum and properly feeling the low ends allows you to experience the really wonderful ones. We can’t numb only one end. (Goodbye pain, goodbye pleasure.) So lean in. Feel it, really feel it, but stay detached from your thoughts, remembering that they don’t define you. (Thoughts are often just a result of survival-oriented and environment created mental constructs, they aren’t “you”––you are really what watches those thoughts.)

So do it: cry, watch, cry, watch… And eventually, the emotion and thoughts will peter out. If you can manage to not hold onto the thoughts, if you don’t identify with them, let them go––the mind drops it. It starts to become a dying mental construct.

And you now feel a jillion gazillion pounds lighter, and understand yourself a bit more. Brilliant.

But I digress.

We were talking about highly sensitive homies, and how that means more than getting hurt feelings. In the world of woo, sensitivity often comes hand-in-hand with being intuitive. I’ve always been great at choosing people who I just vibe with, who are just perfect for me (in that moment), and I feel so lucky for that. I also get psychic presents from time-to-time, knowings and visions in my mind’s eye that come out of nowhere and then actually happen. So freaking cool.

But I also have some that haven’t happened, or that seemed symbolic and I haven’t figured out what they mean. And the majority of them aren’t particularly significant events, I’ll just be working, or looking out a window, or whatever––so I don’t really get the purpose there. (But it feels like magic and that’s not nothing!)

And while I pride myself on doing my best to not take things personally, staying solution-oriented, and owning my shit–I am sensitive.

And you can be both.

P.S. If you’ve wound up here researching the non-woo only definition of Highly Sensitive People, please don’t let my woo-ier opinions deter you from the science-based psychological approach.

ar-asher

Custom Art

Do you have a naked wall? Or an upcoming birthday/wedding/shower in need of a gift?

I can paint anything you like! Maybe where you met someone special? Your amazing dog? Your favorite beverage? A unicorn eating a baguette? Seriously, whatever’s clever.

I have my bachelor’s degree in fine art and have been in around 20 shows spanning the left states. I have worked professionally as an artist for over ten years. Please don’t hesitate to ask any questions, even if you just have a very vague idea of what you want–I’m happy to chat about it.

$100 minimum, generally. (More for portraits.)

Let me know your ideas here!

Dethroning the Queen of Shitgibbers

Once upon a time, I was a teenager.  My favorite hobbies were dancing, gymnastics, figuring out who’s parents were going out of town next, boys, and gossip.  I relished in knowing what was going on with everyone else, and was sure to fill anyone in who didn’t know.  I’d like to say that I was the girl reading Catcher in the Rye and rolling her eyes at girls like me, but I was not. Not even a little.

I remember the first time that I realized that this behavior was a bad thing.  It was normal to me, it was how all of my friends behaved, and how we had behaved since sometime in elementary school. It just was.

But then one day someone finally called me on my shit.

Myself, my high school boyfriend, our friend, and another girl had gone a double date–their first date.  I can’t remember exactly how it went, but at the end of the night I was sure they were going to “hook up”.  The next morning at school I spread the word in the usual fashion. It didn’t take a lot of effort, I went to a very crowded high school in a small Alaskan city. Word got around fast.

Turns out, they did not “hook up” as it were. Things had turned awkward, and their first date was to be their last.  So everyone was coming up to my friend all like, “yeahhh, dude, heard you got some!”, when indeed, he had not.

He came up to me in the hallway and called me The Queen of Shitgibbers.

I was a silly lil’ teenager, but even then I knew that was a title I shouldn’t have earned and sure didn’t want.  I had done a shitty shitty thing, and it was the first time I really realized it was a shitty shitty thing to do.

I’ve made huge strides in kicking the gossip habit…but it happened the other day.  I cracked a joke about someone else, to someone who I knew would find it funny.  It was a cheap shot, not even remotely clever, and remembering it later made me cringe with regret.

Why was I posturing like that? Fucking fucks, I thought I lost you. (Clingy buggers.) And in a way that goes against the things I believe in!? Ick.

So the next time I get the urge to discuss another person behind their back, I hope that I remember it’s a very fleeting satisfaction.  For a split second I can connect with another, get a laugh, feel empowered, a little bit superior…and then just awful.  This is kinda trite, but Eleanor Roosevelt once said:

“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”

I will strive to be great.  I will frequently be average.  I will even spend a huge portion of my time discussing the weather or my lunch. (Burrito, B-, overnuked.) But behaving in a small minded manner like this just isn’t worth the squeeze.

gossip

What is Spirituality?

Is it like religion? How is spirituality different than religion?

To put it very simply, religion is living vicariously through someone else’s experience of “God” (or whatever you want to call it, Source, Universe, The Big Everything, whatevs)—and spirituality is having your very own transcendent experience. (They’re for everyone, not just the “special”.)

So, there are religious people who are also very spiritual, but not all religious people are spiritual. It’s about making the connection on your own, your heart and mind meeting with something bigger. It’s an internal journey, it’s a “you had to be there” experience, whereas with religion you can hand someone a book and say, “This is it, basically.”

Spirituality is filled with nuance and subtlety. A memory flashes through your mind as you read another’s spiritual writings and a deep understanding occurs, like a small piece of a hugely important puzzle has been tapped into place. Or a song plays and the lyrics are the same as the thought running through your head and you know that you best pay attention. Or you dream up a dream that means more to you than you have words to explain. Or the sudden feeling that you are loved beyond belief, combined with goosebumps on your neck and warmth in your heart.

Religion has rules.  Religion tends to be pretty black and white, it throws around judgy concepts like “sin” and “hell”, or tells you that your shitty place in life is determined by your karma—and is, therefore, immovable. Religion’s pretty good a keeping people in their places. Especially people with vaginas and people without money.

Not that it’s all bad! Religion is the bridge to spirituality for many, and has, without a doubt, changed many people’s lives for the better. It also has the advantage of an organization, and while that can lead to judgy-wudgy boxes, it can also lead to a strong community and the ability to bring people together. (Unitarian Universalist churches are unified by their shared search for spiritual growth, but not by any sort of creed or set of beliefs. I’ve been meaning to check one out for ages…)

So, to sum it up—spirituality happens within, and religion happens on the outside. One’s an internal experience and the other’s external.  Religion can also be a way to share your internal spiritual experience with others who relate—if your religion’s cool like that. (It might also tell you that internal spiritual experiences are sacrilegious, a bunch of shinola. RUN if you hear that.) Both are based in a yearning for truth and meaning, but they offer different avenues of finding it.

spirituality

Lucid Dreaming is the Shit

Lucid dreaming is the experience of realizing that you are indeed, dreaming.  Once you gain awareness of what’s happening, you’re able to control the dream.  You can conjure up any experience that you want; from flying through the sky, to fascinating conversations, and telekinesis.

The big trick is simply remembering to question if you’re dreaming whilst doing so.  Because once you wonder that – it’s on.

Here’s a few tricks to get there:

  1. Remember your dreams – Start a dream journal, either writing or babbling into the mic of your phone.  The point is to train the mind to think about dreamtime, to create awareness of it and a relationship to it in your waking hours.
  2. Dream Checks – During your waking day, ask yourself, “Am I dreaming?”  Do so every time you do something routine; like checking the clock, or looking out the window.  The habit will carry over into dreamtime.
  3. Plan what you will do – Do you want to fly?  Get laid?  Chat with Albert Schweitzer?  Daydream it as practice for the real thing.
  4. Watch the movie Waking Life – That’s how I had my first, after watching this amahhhzing flick, and without even trying!
  5. Think about lucid dreaming as you fall asleep – After you’re all cozied in, simply remind yourself that you are going to go lucid dream now.  Focus on it, intend on doing it.

That should do ‘er!  Don’t worry if it takes some time, all of the coolest things in life have a learning curve.

Butterfly, or Man?

I’m a lover of lucid dreaming; when you realize that you’re dreaming, and gain the ability to control your dreams.  (Tips here.)  Though I’ve gotten pretty skilled at being lucid (experiencing what I want to in the dream), the actual becoming lucid often evades me for long periods.  I wrote this piece after one of those lulls had ended:

I had THE COOOOOLEST lucid dream this morning.  I hadn’t had one in months, I’ve been trying so hard, and nothing.  I was worried.  At around 4am my downstairs neighbor started rocking out to NPR super crazy loud (as one will do), and woke me up.  It took me forever to get back to sleep, perhaps putting me into extended Theta (deep brain wave, that in-between wake and sleep), and that’s why I finally became lucid?  Dunno.

It was so very fun, lots of flying!  I flew through clouds and they felt all misty, then I dove down into water and moved the sea floor, cruised through buildings, did gymnastics, lots of telekinesis, talked to some folks, man…oh!, and the men.  Good times, good times indeed.

I woke up to my alarm and was a bit upset.  Everything was so heavy in comparison.  I quickly got ready, my head still totally in the dream. (My outfit only sorta-kinda matches…)  The bike ride to work was very 80’s Nintendo Paperboy-like, with people and cars jumping out at me everywhere, cranky morning scowls abound.  What a friggin’ juxtaposition!  Ooofta.

Have you heard of Chuang Tzu?  He was a badass Chinese Taoist, up in the ranks with Lao Tzu (who wrote the book), way back in 360-ish BC.  One night he dreamt that he was a butterfly.  He flew about and enjoyed his butterfly life, wholly identifying as this butterfly.  Rockin’ them flowers, flitting about with his purty wings.  Just owning this life, he totally loved it.

He woke up confused by this other body.  Being a butterfly had felt so real.  He was that butterfly. He had had had no awareness of being this Chuang Tzu dude, and now he suddenly there he was – this wingless human thing with no apparatus with which to swill nectar!

Or was he a butterfly, now dreaming he was a man?

What was “real”?

I think it’s all real.  (Also it’s all an illusion and nothing is “real”.)  This heavy life where I’m a Meg is equally real as the lighter life of my lucid dream where I was an often body-less point of consciousness, conjuring up awesome on a whim.  And on a level deeper than that – I’m the observer of both of those lives.

Whoa, right?  Matrix and shit, yo.

Forgiveness, heads and gross eyeballs attached.

When you have hard times, and you will, your relationships will be tested.  Whether it’s an internal angst, or an external set of circumstances, at some point you will have a shitty time.  When this shitty time occurs there are those who will disparagingly judge you for it, we often call them fairweather friends.

One morning on the MAX train I found myself daydreaming about getting even with one of these people.  I’m devout to my meditation practice, and I am generally keenly aware of my thoughts. Revenge fantasies are not normal for me.

Maybe it was because I was hungover that day, something I hadn’t experienced in months, or because I was due for my Depo-Provera hormone shot, but I found myself in a reverie about warning a fairweather person’s fiance of her nasty nature and then telling her to go fuck herself.

(Why suggesting someone go masturbate is so satisfying, I do not know.  Perhaps because it’s saying someone isn’t worthy of another’s affection?  Or because it’s something deemed shameful in our repressed society?  Or perhaps the reason isn’t so deep, and it’s just the hard consonant ending with the flowing ‘fff’ sound?  Go fuck yourself.  It really is satisfying to say…almost as great as indubitably.  I’ve only ever actually exclaimed it once, a jillion years ago, and I admit, it was wildly satisfying indeed.  But, I digress.)

I snapped out of it, a bit shocked at where my mind had wandered, and recalled the only time my vengeful Scorpionic side had been truly revealed.  It was a over a decade ago, my Junior year in college.  A dude had chased me for months, charming me, asking me out, pursuing me relentlessly.  Even in my shenanigan-filled college

Even in my shenanigan-filled college days my intuition was pretty sharp, and I didn’t trust him.  There was no reason for it, I just felt in my gut that he was up to no good.  He eventually wore me down, and we spent an unsatisfying few minutes together, after which he never returned my call.

I was pissed.  Back then I was totally hot hotty hot, I had stalkers for Christ’s sake, and this dude gets me, then doesn’t call me back?!  It was the first time I felt really and truly burnnned.  I stewed in my anger whilst watching the movie Grumpy Old Men on basic cable.  I was judging the characters for wasting so much time spiting each other when judgment turned to inspiration.

I had been invited to a kegger at the dude’s house by his roommate, and suddenly decided I should attend...with Grumpy Old Men inspired supplies.  I called a couple best buddies who went to the grocery store with me, where I purchased several fish.  (Heads and gross eyeballs attached.)  I remember my dear friend E saying, “Meg, this is a disturbing side of you, but damn if it isn’t entertaining”.

We went to the kegger, where I pretended like I wasn’t mad.  After some friendly chitchat I excused myself to the restroom, which was just outside of the jerk’s room.  Inside it I found a clothes hamper.  I emptied out half of the clothes, placed the fish inside (heads and gross eyeballs attached), and replaced the clothes.  I exited, signaled my accomplices, and we bailed the party, laughing all the way home.

The jerk moved away, and I wound up making good friends with his roommates.  About a year after my revenge, one of the roomies told me a devastating story about how someone had ruined his best suit by placing several fish (heads and gross eyeballs attached) in his hamper.  My revenge had struck the wrong person!!

I turned beet red, cried a little, and apologized profusely.  He wouldn’t let me pay him back for the ruined duds, and he forgave me immediately. Ooooohwie, did that hurt!  I remember wishing that he would have told me off like I deserved.  I still feel awful about it, and haven’t attempted revenge since.  I learned my lesson.

So, those few who dismissed me during some of the hardest times of my life (dark night of the soul), will not be the butt of a cruel prank parlayed clumsily by myself (heads and gross eyeballs attached), nor a diatribe of their perceived faults, nor any euphonious sneers. Of course, as I learned with my wayward fish prank, kindness really is the best revenge.

The compassionate act of forgiveness doesn’t mean allowing oneself to be mistreated, but simply acknowledges the harmful actions, and releases emotional attachment to them.  It’s wise to forgive, not so the transgressor heals, but so we heal.  Holding on to resentment to hurt someone else is as useful as holding onto a grenade for the same reasons.  It’s only going to hurt you.

It’s empowering to let go, and an apology isn’t necessary to move to forgiveness.  We can release ourselves whenever we choose.  Why not now?

Enlightenment is a destructive process.

I came across a photo meme the other day with this quote by Adyashanti:

“Make no mistake about it – enlightenment is a destructive process. It has nothing to do with becoming better or being happier. Enlightenment is the crumbling away of… untruth. It’s seeing through the façade of pretense. It’s the complete eradication of everything we imagined to be true.”

I’d like to add my own perspective…

The path of enlightenment (which never ends) has everything to do with becoming better and/or happier!  It also involves an extremely uncomfortable process that will totally ruin the perspectives you’ve spent your whole life creating (paradoxes are big in spirituality).

The crumbling away of paradigms that no longer serve us can be painful, for sure.  However, it is necessary to clear the old before creating the new –  you wouldn’t want to build a shiny new building on a crappy old foundation, would you?

Destruction is essential to creation.

After the dust settles, you have a new set of tools with which to handle life’s obstacles and challenges.  You have access to internal wisdom that will always point you in the right direction.  Relationships become honest, your mind becomes clear, and the inherent worth of yourself and others becomes apparent.  You do become better.

After the dust settles, you are left with a profound feeling of possibility, freedom, and expansiveness.  Personally, I don’t think I even knew true happiness before undergoing this process.  I knew it in beautiful fleeting moments, sure.  However, I had no idea that it was just chillin’ in the background the whole time – constant access to sheer joy!  You do become happier.

It feels like you’ve been let in on the cosmic joke.  It’s freakin’ awesome.  Don’t let a little destruction deter you, but do be aware that it’s part of the process.

The juice is totally worth the squeeze.