I’m on the Beach and My Mind Is a Scary Place

I’m on the Beach and My Mind Is a Scary Place

Don’t be alarmed. I’m not really on the beach. Global warming didn’t escalate so quickly as to bring the ocean to Europe’s centre. Though I’d very much like it. I mean, apart from the fact that a bunch of countries would literally drown, I’d get to live on an island, and it would be the end of the world.

My mind is a scary place. That’s probably alright, since the world is a scary place. In an attempt to counter this, I am mindful as fuck. My mind is full of it. Full of crap, that is. My crappy mindfulness (or mindful crappiness) manifests itself at its best (worse) when I meditate. Again, don’t be alarmed. I don’t really meditate.

I practise an approximation of meditation. I’d like to say that it leads nowhere, but that’s not entirely true. It leads to scary places. Such as the beach. Let me explain (finally). I was trying this meditation with visualisation when you imagine yourself on the beach. It was awful. No, I don’t mean awesome. It was the worst, as you can see for yourself in said video below.

Imagine yourself alone on a secluded beach, it starts. Not with these exact words, I don’t remember how it starts, but that’s how I now imagine it starts. Obviously, this is the perfect scenario for a horror movie. Or a dystopian movie. Or a perfectly normal average movie as seen by my dystopian horror mind.

This meditation setting raises a number of disturbing questions. How am I on a beach? I’m not on holiday, I don’t do holidays because holidays are for losers (and rich people). Where is everyone? Has there been the end of the world (finally) and did I miss it because I don’t watch the news? Where’s the murderer (or, even worse, the mugger)? I say, murder me anytime (as long as it doesn’t hurt—too much) but don’t you dare to mug me (because priorities).

Imagine yourself walking on the beach blah blah blah. Okay. It’s getting weirder and weirder. Why would I walk on a beach? It doesn’t look like I’m going to get my groceries or anything. I’m certainly not taking a walk because come on, I don’t walk purposelessly, I’m not a stray kitten. Speaking of which, where the fuck is my cat? Seriously. This is terrifying. Not knowing where I am is one thing but not knowing where my cat is is another. And much worse.

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A random model beach

It’s not like I’m not trying to play along. I imagine myself walking on the beach, as per request. But, did I apply sunblock? Am I wearing my prescription glasses or sunglasses? If the former, it’s pretty hazardous because I’m light-sensitive, and if the latter, it’s pretty hazardous because I’m semi-blind. Also, where’s my purse? The guiding voice doesn’t mention a purse. How is aimless wandering without your keys and wallet (and your cat) supposed to be a relaxing visual?

I’m stumped. Wait. I’m told I’m carrying a beach towel under my arm. What is this shit, the hitchhiker’s guide to galaxy? I shouldn’t be carrying a beach towel because I don’t own a beach towel. I’m sure I wouldn’t buy it, duh, so did I steal it or what? I’m trying to imagine the incriminating evidence away but the big brother voice tells me to spread the towel on the sand and sit on it. Sigh.

Great. So I’m sitting on a dubious towel on the ground in the middle of nowhere. Now what? This is extremely unproductive. I’m being bored to the brink of my early demise. The video was supposed to be ten minutes but it’s been like ten hours already. Hey, guys, move on, I got stuff to do and bills to pay. I can’t be doing nothing. It’s killing me. I can’t even. I think I suck at this shit. The voice finally says I’m free to go and threatens that I can return to here anytime I need. Anytime I need to get more anxious? Okay, thanks.

What I Hated the Least Today 261/365: MS Paint and the Practice of Ensō

What I Hated the Least Today 261/365: MS Paint and the Practice of Ensō

Recently I noticed a huge discussion sparkled about MS Paint, which was announced to be retired but the decision was promptly withdrawn because people are sentimental about it and not ready to let it go yet. I’m pretty unsentimental and don’t give a shit.

But—this was the first app (then called programme) that I ever used on a computer. I was in my early teens and among the first at school who got a computer at home and later, dial-up internet. I was allowed an hour of computer time per day and spent it drawing wildly coloured zig-zags in Paint because I couldn’t draw a straight line if the life of my dog depended on it (yes, I was a dog person as a kid).

For the sake of reminiscing, for the sake of trying something new (something so old that it is new again) and just for the kick out of it, I opened Paint today on my laptop. I selected a thick painting brush and started to draw circles. My mouse movements, though I thought them quite precise, translated into very shaky and jagged  lines.

I’ve always been attracted to warm colours and to the shape of the circle. I find warm colours soothing and the circle is the only shape that doesn’t have edges. I feel edges as threatening. Whenever I attempt anything with a brush or a colour pencil (which is rarely), I do circles, semi-circles or waves. I am aware that I suck at being creative and I can’t produce anything even approaching a realistic depiction, so I always do abstract crap.

Drawing ensō (no, these are not onion rings)

Since I started doing yoga a few years ago or so, and especially since I started meditating, I became a bit interested in the philosophy of the whole thing. It’s not that there is any unified philosophy, and I’m not really looking for one either. However, I came across a number of concepts which appeal to me and to which I can relate. It’s best described as a personal eclectic selection from Zen Buddhism.

The traditional symbol of zen is ensō, a circle which is hand-drawn in one stroke and not corrected once it’s complete. I prefer an open circle, whose openness implies development, movement and is associated with the beauty of imperfection. The practise of drawing ensō is a self-expression of the creator at one particular moment, which is transient. It allows for the release of the mind, letting go of the need to be in control, allowing oneself to be imperfect. This is obviously helpful for anyone with mental health issues.

During my yoga practice, I have been experimenting with mantras, which is like positive affirmations, but more specifically, it’s an idea you keep in mind while doing things on the yoga mat and, perhaps, off the mat too. At first it sounded like mambo jumbo to me. Then, I had to admit that for your mindset, it is more beneficial to be telling yourself something positive than to be imprinting on your mind that you’re a loser (the latter of which is what I’m naturally inclined to do).

What I have ultimately learned from yoga are some generally applicable values which I’m trying to cultivate. I’m not saying I’m any successful at it, just that I have discovered and pinned down the words for some values that are important to me. I’ve never been religious or spiritual, and I still keep it pretty secular, but it’s a new experience all the same. In case you wonder, among the things I’m working on are: generosity, patience, gratitude, acceptance, fearlessness, focus, flow and others. Also, I’m practising creativity—I mean, I just made a connection between MS Paint and Zen Buddhism.