Weekly Photo Challenge: Smile (if You Can)

Weekly Photo Challenge: Smile (if You Can)

In response to WP Weekly Photo Challenge: Smile.

I colour. Colour is used as a verb here. I do not identify myself with colour, as in I am a colour. Though, if I were a colour, I’d totally be pitch-black.

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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.

Getting Tattoo Number Three

Getting Tattoo Number Three

The other day I saw a wonderfully fitting comics, which I can’t be bothered locating again, so I’ll retell it without pictures:

Getting the first tattoo: Oh, it must be something deep and meaningful!
Next tattoos: A unicorn? Sure, I like unicorns!

(I don’t personally like unicorns, as you might remember from my old blog tagline, which said that I’d feed any unicorn in my proximity to my cat or, even better, sell it on eBay.)

Currently on tattoo number three, I didn’t attempt to invent anything deeply meaningful and entirely new because, duh, you can’t do that, everything’s been here already. Also, we’re all going to die anyway (that’s my deep personal motto) and a permanent tattoo is about as permanent as life. Which is, not much. So I just ripped a prefabricated design I liked off the internet. Shrug.

Since I’m a self-declared Buddhist, I picked what’s called the ensō, a hand-drawn circle achieved by a single stroke of the brush. It’s symbolic of Zen or anything you want, really. The image that I brought to the tattoo artist was computer-made, but the guy turned out to be less incompetent than I’d feared and suggested he’d do it for me with an actual brush. Hey, so I ended up with a unique pattern after all!

My appointment for the deed was at 8 AM. What the actual fuck. I don’t normally get up until noon, so this was an act of torture. I walked in the studio zombie-like and proceeded to undress with machine-like movements (not to undress completely, just partially, because I’d freeze to death, duh). As the man prepped his junk (no innuendo intended) and switched on the tattoo machine, the device started to make sounds like the dentist’s drill and I freaked out. (I’m terrified of the dentist.) I may or may have not yelled:

Aw, fuck, I should’ve taken Lexaurin before THIS!

The man made me promise I won’t swear at him dirty, which I did (promise), and I also promised that I’d just cry quietly and that he needn’t mind me. Besides dentists, I’m terrified of pain, which, it turns out, is entirely idiotic and superstitious because during the one-hour tattooing session, I didn’t experience worse than gentle discomfort (only as the needle hit the collar bone—I’m having this circle shit circling my shoulder cap) and it was just nice, wholesome physical pain, which is laughable when compared to the stuff I deal with courtesy of my depression slash anxiety.

I had a lovely chat with the tattoo guy though. What a social occasion for me who doesn’t have a life! The man turned out, surprisingly, to be able to digest my very black and mean humour, which I rarely encounter in people (or in animals, I suppose). So, I seated myself in a comfortable cross-legged meditation seat, ready to go:

He asks: Uh, how long do you think you can sit like this?
Me: Uh, hours on end, I guess?

Please note that I’m a girl and a yogi girl, and hence it’s totally normal for me to sit cross-legged. It’s the best because I don’t topple when I have the extra support of the crossed legs.

On this note, the tattoo man was quite trusting and didn’t seem to mind that I had my knee in his crotch half of the time. No one got hurt though, I mean, except my shoulder, apparently, which didn’t even hurt. Some way into it, I started to doze off. Yawn. I really should be sleeping:

You okay? asks the tattoo guy.
Yeah. Just bored. I retort.

On which he offers me the tattoo machine:

Wanna try it?

I’m considering it. But:

Nah, I’m good. Wake me up when you’re done

In case you’re dozing off reading this, yawn, let me conclude that all seemed to go well, I love the result, and since I had such a good time, I’ll be coming again. As to a picture of the result, I didn’t take a good one when the tattoo was fresh, and now it’s not a good time, since it’s healing and peeling and whatnot. But I assume you can imagine a circle around the shoulder, right? Also, an afterthought: the priceless response of my friend, whom I bragged and who isn’t into tattoos:

But won’t that show too much in summer? 

Hmm. That’s sort of the idea, no?

I Am Where I Was Meant to Be

I Am Where I Was Meant to Be

I don’t even know what the title of the post means (but I can’t be bothered figuring out a more meaningful one). What is it, to be where you’re meant to be? Who does the meaning? I don’t know. I know who doesn’t do the meaning though: me. (Also, god, because I’m godless and faithless.)

I’m a self-declared Buddhist. Dalai Lama’s Cat advises to turn our prison into a monastery. The idea is that while you’re still confined, you bring into play an element of deliberate consent. I’m also Freudian. Freud advises that when you can’t have what you want, you must want what you have. These two are basically the same idea.

If it were entirely up to me, I wouldn’t choose to be where I am, physically and mentally. On the other hand, why not? There are sure worse places, literally and figuratively. I believe in determinism in the sense that where and when you are born predetermines your options. Don’t tell me that my life would be the same if I were born in a dirt hut in the heart of darkness (that’s literary speak for Congo, Africa).

Having been born in the second world has its amazing perks. Awareness, for example. We’re here an advanced society enough not only to know in theory that there are more advanced societies but also to practically know how exactly they live. I don’t think people in the dirt huts of the third world are quite clear on what life in the first world looks like. I have the benefits of internet, formal education and international friends, so I dare say I am quite aware of what it is to live elsewhere.

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Tesco does not sponsor this post

The second world awareness to me means that I know that I could have been better and also that I could have been worse. I can visualise both variants rather well. Knowing this, I’m also appreciative that I haven’t ended up worse. Sure, I’m a struggling overworked freelancer in a cold flat in a shabby small town, but hey, it’s not like I have to walk ten miles to get water from the well and there are rapists and robbers on the way.

I argue that second world people are the toughest. When you don’t know what you could have had, if only you were born differently, you don’t desire it—you have no idea. When you do know, however, that you could, but most likely won’t (don’t give me the nonsense that I can be anything I want to be), you have to get your shit together and deal with it. That requires both mental and physical toughness.

I mean, I’m not dependent on UNICEF food packets, I get my groceries from Tesco, but I still have to walk a mile to get there and carry the shopping on my back because I have neither a car nor someone to help me. It’s this undemonstrative everyday heroism that I value the most in others—and myself. I wouldn’t choose it, but since that’s what I got, I might just as well do it properly and with whatever grace and dignity I can put together.

Yoga Bragging Rights

Yoga Bragging Rights

You might think that the yoga mindset precludes bragging. Not for me. I won’t let any zen thought occlude my better judgement. I will abstain from arguing that you should do yoga if you like yourself (and especially if you don’t like yourself), instead I will provide a list of cool reasons to do yoga. All of them tested and approved by me (because I’m a self-proclaimed expert on pretty much anything. Also, did I mention recently that I’m a doctor? Just to be clear on this.).

My gear

The really good reasons to become a yogi are as follows:

  • You get to wear cute yoga pants. I don’t mean the shabby yoga pants that you’re already wearing all the time, with a hole in the crotch area where the Asian kiddo labourers didn’t sew the seams properly. I mean real fancy yoga pants that you only use for actually doing yoga. I suggest getting several lengths, including short shorts for summer. Be cheeky.
  • You get to terrify people. Simply strike a warrior one, two, three, and take it to a dancer from there. Alternately, if you’re feeling lazy, just collapse into a forward fold and start drawing yin and yang with your hands in the dust. People will start dialling 911 because they’ll think you broke. When they realise it’s perfectly normal, they’ll think you’re a kickass (or dumbass, depending on the people).
  • You get to impress people with pearls of zen wisdom. Accept that it is what it is (Buddhist tautology). Choose to let go of that which doesn’t serve you. Know that the universe is for you and so is everything else. Please know that you’re not required to actually believe this shit. You only need to be able to say it with a straight face. Optimally, after letting such a pearl drop, join your hands in a prayer and bow your head slightly. Namaste (or, as I prefer to say, the darkness in me recognises and honours the darkness in you).
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.