Closer Than They Appear

“We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.” – Anais Nin

Our brain has thousands of filters, sifting through millions of momentary experiences presented throughout the day.

Our eyes are curators, sorting out what is important, interesting, worthy of memory.

Our ears are conductors, turning up certain sounds, relegating others to the background.

Our body is acutely aware of everything, yet certain experiences seem to escape our consciousness.

What if we could take control of the curators and conductors? Instead of letting them use filters embedded early in our lives, we could choose them carefully, designing perspectives like interchangeable lenses.

A lens of opportunity
A lens of love
A lens of connection
A lens of beauty

What would my day look like, if  my consciousness had a lens of beauty?

When I have a camera in my hand, I find myself more aware of my surroundings, ready for an opportunity. I am framing each scene, giving it attention. I could use this as a starting point. What if I imagined that I have a camera not just for beauty, but also for opportunity, love or connection? Holding this metaphor in my mind, I can heighten my awareness. I will be ready to capture the moment, committing it to memory, acting on it in my life.

Perhaps, if I look through all the lenses simultaneously, I can see everything at once, removing myself from the equation. For now, I will focus on one at a time. Too much escapes my notice with the lenses I have in place.

What lenses do you have? Which ones would you like to create?



Rising Above Anxiety

I have a lot of free-floating anxiety these days, most likely because I think I’ve successfully transcended some significant emotional crutches. Yet after relying on them so long, I feel a void; I don’t know what to do with the mental space it created.

When the anxiety takes over and I can’t identify the cause (or there are many causes weaved together), I noticed that I rely on a particular visualization – an out of body experience. I began doing this almost unconsciously a long time ago, but recently started to pay closer attention when I realized it helped release the restriction in my chest and slow the swirling thoughts.

To bring it to life a bit more, I tried to capture the feeling in words. The more vivid the sensation feels, the faster I can calm myself.

Flash of life and death,
Pins and needles climb my scalp.
Expectant silence.

Limbs braid, spin skyward.
My heart dissolves in
a radiant burst of light.

Compelled to let go.
Body cast off like snake-skin;
No lungs enclosing my breath.

Stretching, expanding
I fade; the final notes still

Photo courtesy of photographer Heather Hanson


Coming Into Focus

I have a fear of seeing my photograph — a fear much more intense than simply being unpleasantly surprised by an unflattering angle or poor fashion choice. My weight is part of it, certainly. It is always jarring to see yourself as other may see you, especially when the weight gain has been so dramatic and fast.

I realized tonight that avoiding photographs is symbolic of my inability to look at myself — I’m afraid of what I’ll find. I fear nothingness; the lack of something unique to mark me as an independent human being, capable of true, original creativity.

I’ve begun to wonder if I focus on other people as a way of making up for my perceived emptiness. It also diverts my attention from introspection. “I’m sorry I have nothing to offer, let me invest all of myself into you. I can feel worthy in my selflessness.”

A striking scene from the Stephen King film Dolores Claiborne comes to mind — a woman was so overwhelmed with her long repressed memory of sexual abuse, that for a split second, she looked in the mirror and her body was facing away from her. She was looking at the back of her head. It’s hard to explain, but this scene terrified me.

It is a similar feeling — an overwhelming need to turn away and avoid the chaos and pain of feeling empty. Perhaps my weight gain was an unconscious strategy to keep me from looking too closely. It has certainly worked. And although this blog is a means of internal reflection, I don’t take it to the next level. It remains an idea, tentatively waiting for action.

So…I took my picture tonight — a few shots in the mirror. I stared directly into the camera for the first one but it was too much to bear. So I gazed away. Once I viewed the picture enlarged on the computer, I saw someone I didn’t recognize. I blurred the photo as a way to blunt the feelings that arose. When it’s out of focus, it’s not as overwhelming and allows me to keep looking — a good first step.

I want to treat myself as a person worthy of respect, just as I would anyone else. If that strange person looking back at me was indeed a stranger, I would treat them kindly and gently, reassuring them of their value. Why wouldn’t I do the same for myself?


Jumping into the Present

There will always be something in my life environment that’s incomplete, imperfect, unsettling, or in progress — providing a great excuse to procrastinate, avoid, worry about, or sabotage personal aspirations. I have a tendency to discount the present, like many of us do, thinking that the future holds my “real life” — when the important stuff will begin, when I’ll get it together, have it all figured out. I’ll move from this unpleasant “limbo” directly into my future, like gracefully stepping into a Double Dutch game already underway. As soon as I get inside the ropes, I’ll be in perfect rhythm, responding to my environment with ease and agility. In my mind, it’s an immediate transition. That’s when my life begins.

However, it doesn’t work that way. In life, it isn’t possible to stand outside the game. You have to jump all the time, responding to the ropes whether you want to or not. If you stop, you get tangled up — but the ropes start right up again. I have to accept that I am in the game at this very moment — this is my life and this is my present environment. It won’t ever magically transform into the perfect setting for Zen Cara to suddenly emerge, jumping rope while juggling. But if I pay attention to the ropes, I can at least avoid skinned knees.

Maybe someday I will breakdance while doing Double Dutch. But this fantastic feat won’t arise until I jump — a lot — within ropes that go too slow, too fast, at an uneven pace, or maybe with frayed edges that trip me up. After a while, these conditions won’t matter as much because I’ve learned how to pay attention, anticipate and prepare. It will appear like the ropes are ideally suited for my amazing gymnastics, but truly, I’ve just worked with the ropes, as they were, and practiced. Never stopping, always jumping.