bloodteethandflame

A life in threes

Category: food for thought

4 Science Based Strategies for When You’re Feeling Down.

(or something like that)

I was reading an article the other day because I was feeling like sh*t and this article caught my eye as I was scrolling through my media feed.

This article was broken into four parts, each headlined by an action, and each part discussed scientific reasons why that action would help bring one out of a temporary ‘funk.’

(I say ‘temporary funk’ as this post is not  meant to address the situation of those who suffer from clinical depression or other mental illnesses…just as I believe that the article was not meant as a replacement for seeking medical help, psychological therapy, or taking prescribed medications either.)

These are the 4 strategies as I listed them in my notebook, and the descriptions are my take on the information as it was presented in the article:

1.) Ask yourself: What am I grateful for?

  • Even if you cannot ‘find’ anything, remembering to do so distracts/busies the mind enough to help you feel better.
  • According to the article, worrying – as well as feeling guilt or shame – ‘rewards’ the brain centers, because the brain treats the process of worrying  or feeling shame or guilt about a problem as a valid attempt to find a solution.  The brain treats the worry as an activity – the brain thinks it’s doing something to solve the problem and to the brain, that’s all that matters is that it is doing something.
  • So, the article stresses the importance of keeping one’s mind busy with what is good, as it is all the same to your brain, whether you are thinking of a solution or not.

2.) Label negative feelings.

  • Give that awful feeling or idea a name; don’t suppress your feelings and emotions about it.  It’s part of your brain’s process.
  • When you suppress emotions, your brain still ‘knows’ it and your body still reacts to the emotion, whether you’ve allowed yourself to feel the emotion or not.

3.) Make a decision

  • Making a decision reduces worry and anxiety, as your brain treats the activity of making a decision as ‘finding a solution’ – even if the decision/’solution’ is to allow yourself to feel a feeling for 20 minutes – and move on.  Even ‘I will decide what to do on Monday’ will work – but you must decide and move on.
  • Your brain treats the act of making a decision as a ‘successful’ attempt at a solution – and it calms your limbic system as a result.
  • Even if it is not a ‘100% effective solution’ or even a procrastination (as in ‘I will think about what to do on Monday morning’ or even ‘I don’t know what to do but I will decide later’) your brain registers that as you have decided to do something.
  • Why? Because actively choosing causes changes in attention circuits of the brain and studies have shown this in action: participants were asked to describe how they felt about an action, and then asked to choose how they are going to react to the action.  The simple act of choosing (ie. verbalizing aloud) their reaction caused an increase of dopamine activity in the brain, and the more specific the decision, the more dopamine was released (such as the general “I am hurt, so I will cry” versus the more specific “I am hurt, so I will cry for 20 minutes.”)

4.) Touch people

  • We need to feel love and acceptance from people.  If we do not and we are rejected, it is painful. The brain registers this lack and this rejection as if we have experienced physical pain. According to science, rejection doesn’t feel like a broken heart; your brain treats the rejection like a broken leg.
  • Touching someone that you love, even a pet – for 20 seconds or more – actually reduces pain: “A hug – especially a long one – releases the neurotransmitter and hormone oxytocin, which reduces the reactivity of the amygdala (the base of the pain center) in the brain.

~~~

I would link to the article – if I could find it – so I will keep looking for it, and update with it if I can…

Found it: http://theweek.com/articles/601157/neuroscience-reveals-4-rituals-that-make-happy

 

 

 

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Month for Loki, Twenty-Fourth: Explanation

So I was finally catching up on Doctor Who this past Sunday, when the 12th Doctor (Peter Capaldi) from the Christmas 2016 episode, The Return of Doctor Mysterio, has this exchange with a young boy named Grant who asks the Doctor who he is:

YOUNG GRANT: Who are you?
DOCTOR: The Doctor.
YOUNG GRANT: Yeah, but who are you?
DOCTOR: The Doctor.
YOUNG GRANT: Which one, though? There’s lots of doctors.
DOCTOR: The one. I’m the main one. The original. I started it. They’re all based on me. Now everyone who wants to sound clever calls themselves Doctor. Bandwagon!
YOUNG GRANT: In a comic book, you know what you’d be called? Doctor Mysterio.
DOCTOR: Oh, I like that. Doctor Mysterio! I’ll have that. Nearly ready.

But it is this line that first caught me off guard:
YOUNG GRANT: What is it?
DOCTOR: Well, in terms that you would understand? Sorry, there aren’t any. It’s a, it’s a, it’s a, it’s a time-distortion equaliser thingy.
YOUNG GRANT: A what?
DOCTOR: Well, there’s been a lot of localised disruption here in New York, so, er, my fault, actually. Hopefully this will make it all calm down.
YOUNG GRANT: I don’t understand.
DOCTOR: Do you know what a lightning conductor is?
YOUNG GRANT: Yeah.
DOCTOR: Well, it’s not like that.

I hate to get all Pop-Paganism on y’all, but this particular Doctor evokes so much of  the essence of Them for me that I am continually being thrown off guard by those sorts of random side comments.  Especially when I find myself wondering what the heck They mean…because there is so much about Them, what They do and what They want that I have gotten to the point that I am beginning to wonder if it will ever make sense.

But as Madeline L’Engle wrote:

Wrinkle-in-time

 

It’s kind of funny that the word “learned” is used here, since what she’s learned is that you can’t know everything.

Instead of learning as gaining knowledge, here it’s recognizing a lack of knowledge.

Good advice, actually:

powerreaction

Month for Loki, Fourteenth: Knot.

In the summer of 2012, I had one of the first of a series of strange vivid dreams  that involved Loki:

In this particular dream, I found myself searching through  a building of many rooms, and while I didn’t know what or who I was looking for, I knew I was looking for something…or someone.

Most of the rooms were spacious but empty – white walls, sparsely furnished, lit by buzzing fluorescent ceiling panels.  Like an abandoned office building, which I sensed may or may not be underground.

And then I was surprised to come upon what appeared to be a middle-aged man with dark auburn hair in one of the rooms.  As I’d mentioned, though most of the rooms were nothing more that white empty walls, the room this man was in was full of  brightly colored yarn.   Skeins of various colors and in various states of unravel lay scattered all over the floor.  While a few seemed no more than tangled handfuls of yarn, others were neatly wound and stacked in piles of three or four bundles, sorted by color.

Meanwhile the biggest jumble of knots lay closest to the man’s right foot.  I could also see that he was barefoot…. and he wasn’t exactly sitting in the chair.

This man was sprawled in an elaborately carved wooden chair large enough to easily be mistaken for some sort of throne.  I say sprawled because though I came upon him sitting upon this odd throne from behind and at somewhat of an angle, I immediately realized that this man was quite gangly; one of his legs casually dangled over one of the arm rests, and I couldn’t help but wonder how he’d  miraculously found a way to fold the length of the rest of his body comfortably within the confines of the seat.  

I don’t think he noticed me at first, as his head was bent in concentration upon his hands and the tangled mess of colored yarn in his lap.

However, when he did finally look up at me

He grinned….and casually asked me

if I knew

who he was.

Loki.

And Loki appeared to be knitting.  

But not with needles, mind you; He seemed to be knitting with His fingers.

(from my notebook, 17 July 2012)

~~~

But I learned something interesting today.

It occurs to me that Loki may not have been knitting.

He may have been nålbinding (“needle-binding”), an ancient technique which may pre-date knitting and crocheting by 1500 years, where a single length of thread or yarn is passed through loops by use of a single needle, and the resulting fabric is sturdily connected by interlocking these loops of yarn or thread with one another.  Nålebinding is also called ‘knotless netting.’

I came across this information today – though honestly I was researching something else that had nothing at all to do with Norse clothing -but a reference to socks caught my eye and I found my way to Hurstwic.org:

“However, Norse socks were not knitted (which apparently was unknown to the Norse). Instead, they were made using an ancient technique called nálbinding (needle-binding). Using a single large, thick needle, it was a method of knotting the yarn. Although time consuming, this approach resulted in a nearly indestructible garment. If the thread were to break or wear out, the garment would still be intact, since the thread was everywhere knotted to neighboring threads. Mittens and caps were also made using this technique. The sketch to the left shows the steps involved in making an article of clothing using the nálbinding technique. Note that the fabric grows in a spiral pattern. Once the spiral is large enough, it is knotted back on itself to create the shape of the finished article.”

 

(Photos: l-r: spiral nal-binding_sketch; Sock found in York; from Hurstwic.org.)

~~~

How does this personally relate to me in regards to Loki?

Loki has been referring me to knots and knotwork for many years now, and as it is with His method, I hadn’t any idea as to why He was always referring to such things, either literally or metaphorically.  But I’m starting to connect some things about knots and knotwork today.

But, barring that, it does give His references to ‘creating sockpuppets’ a whole new meaning, eh?

 

Month for Loki, Eighth: Trickster.

“There is no way to suppress change…not even in heaven; there is only a choice between a way of living which allows constant, if gradual alterations and a way of living that combines great control and cataclysmic upheavals. Those who panic and bind the trickster choose the latter path. It would be better to learn to play with him, better especially to develop skills (cultural, spiritual, artistic) that allow some commerce with accident, and some acceptance of the changes that contingency will always engender.”

— Lewis Hyde, Trickster Makes This World

Ragnarok

Even though I am over a month late in posting my thoughts, I could not wait to read National Geographic’s most recent article on the Vikings, which appeared in their March 2017 issue.

While much of the article concerned recent discoveries made about Viking culture of which I was already familiar, an intriguing theory concerning Ragnarok was mentioned on pages 38-9:

 In the nearly three centuries before the raids on foreign shores began around AD 750, Scandinavia was wracked by turmoil, [Neil] Price [of Uppsala University, Sweden] says. More than three dozen petty kingdoms arose during this period, throwing up chains of hill forts and vying for power and territory.  In the midst of these troubled times, catastrophe struck.  A vast cloud of dust, likely blasted into the atmosphere by a combination of cataclysms – comets or meteorites smashing into the Earth, as well as the eruption of least one large volcano–darkened the sun beginning in AD 536, lowering summer temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere for the next 14 years. The extended cold and darkness brought death and ruin to Scandinavia, lying as it did along the northern edge of medieval agriculture. In Sweden’s Uppland region, for example, nearly 75 percent of villages were abandoned, as residents succumbed to starvation and fighting.  

So dire was this disaster that it seems to have given birth to one of the darkest of all world myths –the Nordic legend of Ragnarok, the end of creation and the final battle, in which all gods, all supernatural beings, and all human beings and other living creatures die.  Ragnarok was said to begin with Fimbulwinter, a deadly time when the sun turns black and the weather turns bitter and treacherous–events that eerily parallel the dust veil that began in 536, Price says.*

        I had never considered that there could have been an actual historical event upon which Ragnarok was based.

        Fascinating.

~~~~

  • Vikings: What You Don’t Know About the Toughest Warriors Ever, by Heather Pringle, National Geographic, March 2017, pp 38-9)

 

Poem

This lovely poem was shared by a friend on my social media feed this morning, and though I was skeptical that its words ‘could change one’s life,’ I will grant that its overall message is rather profound one…and personally relevant.

(Thanks Sarah!)

~~~

THE GUEST HOUSE

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Jelaluddin Rumi,
Translation from The Essential Rumi by Coleman Barks

 

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the more you know

I love Brene Brown…even when she is throwing out some hard truths.

So you can gather what I am talking about, you might want to watch the video.

Y’see, I , too, am a ‘blamer.’

It’s true of me that when something bad happens, my first thought is often whose fault is this? – and, more often than not, I twist it in my head until I’ve found a reason for whatever happened.

I need to know why.  I am a person that needs to know why.

Even if -more often than not – I end up blaming myself for whatever it is that happened in some way.

Yeah.  I know that that’s unhealthy.

Yep, I thought that that was holding myself accountable.*

This mindfulness and this desire to hold myself accountable for myself and my reactions to bad things happening is often the way that my thoughts go.  And I’ve had enough therapy to know that I’m only doing half the work, too, when I stop and actually think about it.

Why is it only half the work?

Because the full work would be the realization and implementation of the fact that some bad things happen because they are random.  Sometimes there is no reason.

Yes, it’s true that sometimes bad things happen because someone wasn’t mindful of themselves or others – and I include myself in that – and rash decisions get made.   Things get broken, or feelings get hurt, or what have you, and often emotions fuel those decisions.

But the key is – the process of thinking that there has to be reason somewhere.  That there has to be a reason, there has to be a fault.  And that there has to be this endless overthinking and wasting of time and resources trying to figure out why something is, why something happened, or what led to this or that result.

As Brown points out, the fault-finding and blame is a discharge of discomfort and a desire for control of the situation, including getting control of one’s emotions and reactions.

And that gets me to thinking about my zen Buddhist therapist who speaks a continuous refrain of how I need to work on letting shit go, learning that the only person one can control is oneself and one’s reactions to the world, and the constant reminder that the only moment is the present moment.  He talks endlessly of the fact that the present is the only moment in which we can live, and how when one has realized this, and one focuses on mindfulness and control of oneself in the present moment, only then can one create inner peace and happiness.

Oh yes, it gives me a headache sometimes…this zen business.  The letting go, the reactive vs. proactive paradigm, the mindfulness — so much jargon.   I cannot deny that this all feels exhausting sometimes, and I’ll admit that I fall back upon ingrained reactive habits and value judgments, and and and….*sigh*

I wallow in self-blame, another waste of time.

So.

Yes.

I seek control.

But the only control I seek in the end is self-control.

~~~

*This video opens my eyes to the mistake I’ve made concerning what accountability is.

 

 

 

Worldbreaker.

Everything’s fine.

Then, everything’s *not* fine.

2016 has been a rollercoaster..and I don’t think that it has just been a rollercoaster for me.

Look at the rest of the world, I suppose.

i-cant-wait-to-stay-up-until-midnight-on-new-9976352

It would seem that everyone is struggling with something…not just me.

Not just my struggles.

~~~

I haven’t been posting, mainly because I’ve been keeping to the relative safety of writing in my notebooks, because 2016 has brought so many changes to my life that when I look back upon where I was, emotionally and spiritually, on this day in 2015, I am agog at how much has changed in my relationships, my attitudes, my writing….hell, even my devotional/spiritual practices.

As a matter of fact, so much has changed in my devotional practice that my head is sort of… spinning.

It’s been an interesting year, to say the least.

~~~

At the end of 2015, I was coming out of a major depressive episode.

Certain aspects of my life were either stagnant or evolving in a direction that I didn’t want to travel.  I felt stuck and sad and angry.

I had decided to end relationships with several persons whom I’d come to over-value so much that I’d thought of these folks as the basis of my spiritual community….so deciding to cut ties with those friends felt like cutting ties with my sense of community.

As well, I felt stagnant in my spiritual relationships.  I needed something to change but I didn’t know what or how

 

Though I had hope for 2016, I’d never in a million years expected the changes that were in store for me regarding my marriage, my circle of friends (or whom I would have considered my circle of friends), how I’d come to spend my free time,the people, places and things I would come to value, the skills that I would develop or the way that my devotional/spiritual practices would be completely overhauled.

Yes, my spiritual practices would suffer a complete overhaul in 2016.

And that is why I have chosen WorldBreaker as the title of this post.

Because, oddly enough, in retrospect, one of the only constants I see in the pattern of 2015 to 2016 was …Loki

And yes, that is true…I am working with Loki now.*

Though in late December 2015, I’d even gone as far as to pack up all of my altars -including His – because I was feeling disconnected from all of Them.

I was throwing what was essentially a tantrum of enormous spiritual proportions.

homerissues

I was trying so hard to feel and to do, and yet all I could feel was an immense sense of frustration and disconnection.

I was feeling what I thought that I was supposed to feel and I was doing what I thought was the ‘work’ that I needed to do…

And yet I was ….not.

Though I will admit what I did feel was this:

I wish you all had one neck and I had my hands around it.

(Those, by the way, are the second to last words of convicted murderer Carl Panzram, just before he was executed at Leavenworth Penitentiary in 1930)

(Do you see the WorldBreaker yet?)

Because that, my friends, is how I felt (inwardly, of course) about the whole business of not just the day to day functionings of my mundane life, but my spiritual life as well.

In late 2015, I definitely felt that if Life were a person, I wanted to choke that motherfucker out…and hard.

But I am not a violent person, so I could not even begin to guess where those feelings of rage were coming from at the time.

But I do…now.

dont-be-upset-1

(Yep.  That was me…being upset.  And oh…not working on my shit.  But boy, did I think I was!)

So, what changed?

Well, I can’t exactly write a recipe book now, can I?

It was my journey from 2015 on and through all of 2016 that  required a change in attitude towards a lot of situations that I didn’t particularly like that involved people that I didn’t particularly like.

I was entrenched in a battle of control and blame in my mundane life, and I was believing that these situations were somehow within my realm of control… but they were not.

I was the face of acceptance on the surface, but underneath all of that, I was angry and withholding.

I kept telling myself that I had let go of the past, but I had not….not entirely.

I was full of assumptions and waiting for the other shoe to drop.

I was waiting and hiding and grumbling to myself.

I had expectations based upon assumptions, and I was feeding an ugly vicious cycle of blame and insecurity.

In short, I was living in the past, but thinking that I was moving on.

I thought I was open.  I thought I was being accepting and fair and loving and generous.  I thought that I was letting go.  I told myself constantly that I was holding myself accountable.  I was convinced that it was I who was fair and open and honest…and others were not.

It wasn’t me who refused to be, it was them.

And in my spiritual life – well, there’s a mirror.  I was insecure, tentative…also angry.

I had so much stuff on my altars.  I was meditating every day.  I felt like I was constantly giving Them time, giving Them energy, giving Them thought.

So why was I having the dark night of the soul?  Why was I feeling a fallow time?  Why did I feel so disconnected?

Because…you refuse.

You refuse to be open.

You refuse to be generous.

You do not allow….

You do not permit….

It will begin…when you begin.

BEGIN.

And so, in 2016, I began without even being aware of what I was beginning.

(Enter the WorldBreaker, stage left.)

Looking back upon the year, I realize that there were many occasions wherein I was thrust into many uncomfortable situations.

I look back upon these uncomfortable moments and I recall feeling forced to explain myself in many ways.

A lot of these moments featured me being forced to examine myself – my social anxieties, my prejudices, my decisions, my beliefs.**

But 2016 also rewarded me – the year even brought me a lot of growth, and even some new friends – or rather, I re-connected with myself in re-connecting with several ‘old’ friends – which led to my social circle increasing exponentially and unexpectedly at the same time.

As well, 2016 brought me joy in unexpected places (Arizona) and heartache in others (Washington DC)…but in the end, the slow change toward actually letting go of my need to control/create a specific outcome led to unexpected and entirely unforeseen outcomes.

While I do not have a lot of the same people in my life that I had had in 2015, I do have people in 2016.

As well, in 2016, I have done things that I never thought that I would do, I experienced things that I’d never dreamed of experiencing before, and craziest of all, I am actually working with yet another God that I had once insisted that I would *never* work with.

(Hel, as recently as two months ago, I would have refused to even look at Him, let alone work with Him in any way.)

Funny, how things can change so completely and so abruptly, eh?

onedecision

But that, my friends, is the story of a decision for another day entirely. 😉

 

So that was the trajectory of my 2016.

A year of rapid, dramatic (sometimes even melodramatic) emotional and spiritual change for me.

Courtesy of a relentless Breaker of Worlds.

Hail Loki, indeed ❤

~~~~

*In retrospect, I realize that up to a point, 2012-2015 was essentially ‘making a good show of working with Loki’ compared to  actually ‘working with’ Loki  :-/

**I felt ashamed, exposed…and about three months ago, it peaked in that a few folks even vilified me for speaking my mind, for writing what I wrote in this blog.  And yes, it stopped me.  A lot.

someday